Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler (1884–1979) is known as the dealer of Cubism par excellence. He opened his first gallery in Paris in 1907 and, until the outbreak of the First World War, commissioned George Braque, Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, among others, and exhibited their work. His dealings with Picasso soon turned from a commercial relationship into friendship as he became one of the artist’s confidants in the 1940s.

Kahnweiler was born into a wealthy German-Jewish family, and at a young age he moved to Paris to continue the family businesses and to develop his penchant for and interest in art. With ample financial means, he supported his work as a gallerist and art adviser throughout his life, founding, after the First World War, the Galerie Simon (1920–1941), rechristened the Galerie Louis Leiris by his sister-in-law to avoid anti-Semitic suspicion during the Occupation of Paris. He continued to collaborate with the gallery as an adviser until the end of his life.

The author of the founding text The Rise of Cubism (1919), Kahnweiler advocated this new artistic movement due to it being a paradigmatic manifestation of its age, responding to new iconographic necessities and representation in modern and pre-war times. He wrote the text while exiled in Switzerland during the war; it constitutes not only an immediate theoretical study on Cubism, but also one of its first aesthetic assessments and systemisations. Years later he would publish other titles, for instance Juan Gris: His Life and Work (1946), the catalogue Picasso’s Sculptures (1948), his memoirs My Galleries and Painters (1961) and Aesthetic Confessions (1963), reflecting his twofold status as a witness and creator of a new mode of working with artists.

Kahnweiler was almost the same age as Picasso, and once the commercial relationship between artist and dealer was over, both later shared artistic interests. Moreover, Kahnweiler safeguarded the artist’s work, painted and amassed in his studios, and ensured both its dissemination and exhibition. He became Picasso’s middleman and spokesperson in dealing with museums and institutions in everything related to loans and the interpretation of his work, with Guernica a case in point.


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