|My Grandfather's Gallery by Anne Sinclair.|
To follow up this reading, I chose a biography of one of Kahnweiler's main rivals, art dealer Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959). My Grandfather's Gallery: A Family Memoir of Art and War by Anne Sinclair, was published as 21 rue La Boétie in French in 2012, and in English in 2014.
Paul Rosenberg, Sinclair's grandfather, took over many of the artists that Kahnweiler had represented before going into exile from France during World War I. After the war Rosenberg's brother, Léonce Rosenberg, had wronged Kahnweiler by helping the state auction off Kahnweiler's paintings, thus pushing more artists to sign with Paul. In particular, Paul Rosenberg represented Picasso from the 1920s through World War II, after which Picasso returned to Kahnweiler.
|A Picasso sketch of Paul Rosenberg, 1919. (source)|
My Grandfather's Gallery is just the opposite: Sinclair's principal theme is the horror of the war and of the lethal persecution of Jews and others, and she describes how these horrors affected her grandfather, grandmother, parents, brother, and their peers. In fact, Sinclair's grandparents, her parents, and her uncle (who fought in the French Resistance) were among a small minority who escaped. They fled from Paris through rural France and through Spain and Portugal to New York, with the extraordinary help of Alfred Barr, head of the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Sinclair herself was born in New York in 1948. Her parents returned to France shortly after her birth, and thus she was brought up and educated entirely in France, and considered herself entirely French. Although she was aware of her grandfather's accomplishments as an art dealer, as a young woman Sinclair was determined to lead a life independent of her family's privilege. In fact, she achieved fame as a political journalist and the host of an extraordinarily popular and insightful French TV news and interview show called "7/7" which aired every Sunday night from 1984 until 1997. The experiences of her family simply never interested her until a few years ago, when she decided to look into their history as available to her in family archives and the existing historical record.
Like many children who didn't listen to their parents' stories, Sinclair expresses many regrets for the way she dismissed her parents' accounts of their lives. Her research and this book are an attempt to make up for her earlier neglect. Since writing it, she's also participated in art exhibits about the Paul Rosenberg collections, which are now dispersed in many museums: see this article from 2016: "Paintings That Bear the Scars of War."
In My Grandfather's Gallery, Sinclair documents how her grandfather was able to transfer artworks from his gallery to New York, to found a gallery there, and to live quite well during the war with his family. She describes her early memories of their opulent New York apartment and the art gallery, where she often visited after her family re-established residence in Paris. She details her grandfather's reputation as an art dealer and discerning collector, his large holdings of art works from the early 20th century, and the family's art donations to many great museums in Europe and in the United States.
After the defeat of the Nazis, Paul Rosenberg spent a great deal of effort to have his property restored. He knew how fortunate he had been compared to the majority of his fellow Jews and other persecuted victims of the Nazis -- in 1945, he wrote:
"We recovered some paintings looted by the Germans, or by dishonest Frenchmen. But I am not going to complain, it's as nothing when you look at the horrors that the Nazis inflicted on human beings of all races, creeds, and colors." (p. 209)