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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Photo

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler

German Art Dealer, Art Collector, and Art Historian

Born: June 25, 1884 - Mannheim, Germany
Died: January 11, 1979 - Paris, France
Movements and Styles: Cubism, Fauvism, Modernism and Modern Art
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Timeline
"To be an intermediary between the artists and the public, to clear their way, and to spare them financial anxieties. If the profession of art dealer has any moral justification it can only be that"
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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Signature
"My role was to fight for the painters of my age"
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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Signature
"I did not have the slightest doubt as to either the aesthetic value of these pictures or their importance in the history of painting"
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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Signature
"In contemplating a work of art we can momentarily escape the isolation to which we are condemned the rest of the time. We are united with humanity, with everything, with God"
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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Signature
"I found an opportunity to help those whom I considered great painters, to be an intermediary between them and the public, to clear their way, and to spare them financial anxieties. If the profession of art dealer has any moral justification, it can only be that"
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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Signature
"I adore defending what I love"
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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Signature
"Fundamentally painting has never been a mirror of the external world, nor has it ever been similar to photography; it has been a creation of signs, which were always read correctly by contemporaries...the Cubists created signs that were unquestionably new, and that is what made it so difficult to read their paintings"
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Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Signature

Summary of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler

Kahnweiler is recognized as one of the most important art dealers of the twentieth century. While still in his early twenties, he had spotted the potential in a new generation of artists - the likes of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and Kees van Dongen - all of whom he represented through his famous Galerie Kahnweiler. Though he also dealt in Fauvist works, he would quickly emerge as the principle dealer in (and intellectual backer of) Cubism. But it was perhaps his long (and at times fractious) association with Picasso that confirmed him his place in the mythology of European modernism. As a German Jew living in Paris in the first half of the century, he was driven out of the French capital during both World Wars. But the exile didn't stop him, as he found the time to write Der Weg zum Kubismus (The Rise of Cubism), a book that gave the world the blueprint for Cubist theory and practice and which remains a seminal text in the history of modern art to this day.

Accomplishments

  • Galerie Kahnweiler ranks as one of the most important galleries in art history. Possessed of an imposing self-belief and savvy business acumen, Kahnweiler confronted the prejudices of the Parisian art establishment by creating an unique creative environment that allowed some of the greatest artists of the early twentieth century to rise up and dominate the burgeoning avant-garde scene.
  • Pablo Picasso was the first superstar artist of the new millennium and the artist owed much of his success to Kahnweiler. It was the German who saw the potential for Picasso's seminal Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and it was through Kahnweiler, and his sense for the power of promotion and publicity, that the Spaniard became the artist of choice amongst the most progressive collectors.
  • Kahnweiler's influence extended beyond France. Indeed, he formed an international network of dealers through whom he was able to "introduce" his artists to new audiences in Europe and America. In a century where the hub of the art world shifted between two capitals, one might say that Kahnweiler was as intrinsic to the international success of the Parisian avant-garde as Clement Greenberg would be to the success of the New York avant-garde.
  • Like Greenberg (who thirty years later convinced the world of the value of Abstract Expressionism), Kahnweiler proved to be a formidable and persuasive writer and theoretician. Through his book Der Weg zum Kubismus (not to mention various articles) he was able to put into words how the radical new art of Cubism offered the open-minded viewer a brand new way of looking at the world.

Biography of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Photo

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler was born Heinrich Kahnweiler in 1884. His family had relocated to the city of Mannheim, in the region of Baden, from the much smaller town of Rockenhausen in the Rhineland-Palatinate province.

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and Important Artists and Artworks

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

This proto-Cubist work by Picasso - destined to become one of the most iconic works in the history of world art - depicts five prostitutes on the Carrer d'Avinyó in Barcelona. Most of the figures engage the gaze of the viewer in a direct manner and this, coupled with the artist's general preference for disjointed representation, amounted to a flagrant affront to the conventions of the female nude. Indeed, the women, described by Kahnweiler as "rigid, like mannequins", are imposing in their collective stance. Reflecting Picasso's interest in primitivism, meanwhile, the facial features of the two figures to the right are modelled, not on Western ideals of female beauty, but rather on African masks. The flat, two-dimensional space the women inhabit is similarly angular with an overall effect that marked a truly radical move away from traditional European paintings.

Kahnweiler visited Picasso's studio where he became mesmerized by Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (as it was named later). Though he had been reluctant to sell, Picasso, who was still an unknown artist at the time, and who had become dispirited by the negative responses to the work, was won over by the 23-year-old German's genuine enthusiasm for his painting. Kahnweiler remarked later that something "admirable, extraordinary, inconceivable had occurred" between the two men, and his positive response, coupled with his immediate decision to purchase the painting, proved a turning point in the career of a newly galvanised artist. Kahnweiler saw this painting as the birth of Cubism, writing "this is the first upsurge, a desperate titanic clash with all of the problems at once".

Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Keen to support his star artist in his Cubist experiments, Kahnweiler sat for this portrait no less than 30 times. Although working in a traditional idiom - a seated portrait of the artist's dealer - Picasso was not interested in literal representations. He represented his sitter through a series of angular shapes and shifting surfaces which combine to create only an impression of the subject. The planes convey multiple viewpoints, bringing into view Kahnweiler's face and hands via use of lighter shading while other details are discernible amidst the cutting lines and edges of the shapes: Kahnweiler's watch chain (which could be an allusion from Picasso to his dealer's obsession with punctuality), and the waves of his hair, for example. The art critic Jonathan Jones observed that Kahnweiler "haunts [the painting] like a shadow of himself, a nuclear ghost imprinted in space [...] It is not a picture of him. And yet he is fully there, his identity glimpsed with a strange warm intimacy through the shattered glass of the modernist age".

Picasso's contract gave him the financial security he needed to develop his style freely; a decision the Spaniard acknowledged when he observed: "what would have become of us if Kahnweiler hadn't had a business sense?". Indeed, despite their combustible personalities, the two men made a formidable team. As Philip Hook said of Kahnweiler, "in the end, his life and career was justified by his unlikely relationship with Picasso". This portrait was one of the many paintings "sold off" in the notorious Hôtel Drouot auctions in Paris in June 1921 and was purchased by the Swedish expressionist painter Isaac Grünewald before eventually finding its way into the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Village (c.1912)

Artist: Maurice de Vlaminck

Considered one of the principal figures in the Fauvist movement, Village is typical of Vlaminck's pre-war period when the artist sought to capture mood and atmosphere over realistic picture detail. He achieved this through the use of heavy brushwork and a distinctively bold palette. In this particular painting, Vlaminck's use of thick dabs of color in place of individual leaves on the tree in the left foreground mirror the wide strokes of the clouds in the sky, thereby creating a sense of movement and stormy foreboding.

Vlaminck met fellow painter André Derain on a train to Paris in the early 1900s and the two forged a lifelong friendship, even renting studio space together at the start of their careers. Derain had been one of the first artists to sign an exclusive contract with Kahnweiler in 1912, and Vlaminck followed suit in 1913. Kahnweiler influenced both artists in encouraging them to explore the medium of woodcuts and African art. Despite his close relationship with the art dealer, however, Vlaminck was staunchly resentful of Cubism (and particularly Picasso) and remained steadfast in his commitment to the more expressive Fauvist style. Unlike Picasso, Vlaminck was loyal to Kahnweiler during the German's forced exile and publicly protested the Hôtel Drouot sales of his collection following the First World War.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler
Influenced by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler
Friends & Personal Connections
  • Paul Rosenberg
    Paul Rosenberg
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    Alfred Flechtheim
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    Francis Gerard Prange
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    Gottfried Tanner
  • No image available
    Michael Brenner
Open Influences
Close Influences

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Content compiled and written by Alexandra Banister

Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Anthony Todd

"Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler Influencer Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Alexandra Banister
Edited and revised, with Summary and Accomplishments added by Anthony Todd
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First published on 03 Aug 2020. Updated and modified regularly
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