Greatest Art Collectors Series:
Paul Rosenberg

Biography of Picasso's French Art Dealer.



Paul Rosenberg
. Art Dealer
for Picasso between the wars.

Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959)

Contents

Biography
Early Years
Fall of Kahnweiler
Rise of Paul Rosenberg
Escape to America


Biography

The most influential of all French art collectors and dealers during the period 1925-40, Paul Rosenberg represented some of the greatest modern artists associated with the Ecole de Paris. They included the Cubists Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963), the Tubist Fernand Leger (1881-1955), and the Fauvist/expressionist Henri Matisse (1867-1954). He formed an especially close relationship with Picasso. Unlike his brother, the dealer Leonce Rosenberg, who focused almost exclusively on Cubism and Cubist painters, Paul Rosenberg dealt in a wide range of modern art, covering movements such as Impressionism, styles of Post-Impressionist painting, early Expressionism including Fauvism, as well as the latest avant-garde art of the Paris school. His clients included several major art museums in America, including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Later, he opened a branch of his business in London, and in 1940 he moved his business to New York.

Early Years

Born in Paris, the younger son of art dealer Alexandre Rosenberg, and the brother of Leonce Rosenberg (1879-1947), Paul was given an educational "grand tour" in fine art which took him to London, Berlin, Vienna and New York, where he acquired valuable experience and contacts. In 1906 Paul and Leonce took over the family gallery and dealership in Paris. Four years later they divided it up between them: Leonce - based at 19 rue de La Baume - focused exclusively on Cubist-style abstract paintings and abstract sculpture; Paul - based at No.21 Rue La Boetie - maintained a broader interest in modernist French painting, embracing representational art as well as abstract pieces. His stock included works by all of the major French and European artists, as well as expatriates like the American Marsden Hartley (1877-1943). Paul's choice of location for his business also proved sounder: it had better connections with the art world, which gave him better trading and better financial contacts.

Fall of Kahnweiler

In 1914, as well as the Rosenbergs, the main art dealers in Paris included Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979), Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922), Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), and Paul Guillaume (1891-1934). But Durand-Ruel was getting old, Vollard (though still influential) had made his money, and Guillaume was too young. Kahnweiler however was approaching his prime. He represented major artists (including Picasso, Braque), he had excellent clients and, along with Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), he was one of the most erudite art critics in Paris. Unfortunately he was also German. So when war broke out in August 1914, he was declared an enemy alien and forced into exile in Switzerland. In addition, the French government sequestered his stock of paintings, preventing him from continuing his dealership and looking after the interests of his artists. Into the vacuum stepped the Rosenberg brothers who promptly signed up a number of important artists.

Rise of Paul Rosenberg

For various reasons, however, Paul Rosenberg proved more popular to artists than his brother. As a result, he secured exclusive dealer-relationships with Picasso, Braque, Marie Laurencin, Fernand Leger, Matisse and several others. In addition, unlike Leonce, he focused on promoting established artists, rather than unknown talent. Finally, although Leonce achieved some success in the early 20s with his new gallery, the Galerie l'Effort Moderne, he fell out with numerous painters over his handling of the postwar liquidation of Kahnweiler's confiscated stock at knock-down prices. All of this rebounded to the advantage of Paul Rosenberg, and led to him becoming one of the most powerful dealers in Paris. In due course, he acquired a number of major clients interested in buying artworks, including the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Duncan Phillips and The Phillips Collection, millionaire collectors like Alfred H. Barr, Chester Dale, Douglas Dillon, and many more. Recruitment of wealthy American clients was further enhanced in 1935 by the opening of a new branch of the business in London.

Escape to America

During the late 1930s, Rosenberg could see that war was inevitable and began quietly to ship the bulk of his art collection overseas. Even so, by the time Germany invaded France in 1940 he still had more than 2,000 artworks inside France. Luckily, he and his family were able to leave France for America, via Lisbon, before they were arrested. In their absence, German officials looted the Rosenberg art collection. At the end of the war, it was estimated that one third of all art in French hands had been stolen by the Germans.

Arriving in New York, Rosenberg lost no time in establishing a new art gallery at No. 79 East 57th Street, from which to continue his business. At the end of the war he and other family members made strenuous efforts to reclaim various works looted by the Germans, with mixed success. Paul Rosenberg died in 1959 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris. On his death, the Rosenberg dealership passed to his son Alexandre.

 

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