Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler was a banker, writer, publisher, and art dealer who became the pioneering champion of Cubism. He opened his first gallery in Paris at 28, rue Vignon in the spring of 1907. Kahnweiler primarily presented rotating selections of work by Georges Braque, André Derain, Pablo Picasso, Maurice de Vlaminck, and other artists, but he did mount a few exhibitions, including one for Kees van Dongen in March 1908 and a seminal show for Braque in November 1908. Kahnweiler signed his first exclusive contract with Derain in March 1908. He reached similar agreements with Braque (November 1912), Picasso (December 1912), Juan Gris (February 1913), and Fernand Léger (October 1913) that gave him right of first refusal for recent works from those artists’ studios. These contracts made Kahnweiler the sole supplier of Cubist art until fall of 1914.
Kahnweiler’s clients included the French collector Roger Dutilleul, Czech art historian Vincenč Kramář, Russian collectors Ivan Morozov and Sergeï Shchukin, Swiss collector Hermann Rupf, American collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein, and German collector-dealer Wilhelm Uhde. Among the numerous dealers with whom Kahnweiler established close collaborative business relationships prior to World War I were Alfred Flechtheim, Alfred Stieglitz, and Heinrich and Justin K. Thannhauser.
When World War I broke out in August 1914, the French government declared Kahnweiler, a German national, an enemy alien. He was vacationing in Italy at the time and could not return to Paris to prevent the sequestration of his property. The gallery’s stock was confiscated on December 12, 1914, and sold in four public auctions supervised in part by Léonce Rosenberg (first three sales) and held at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris between 1921 and 1923. Approximately 3,000 items were sold, including 1,219 works by Braque, Gris, Léger, and Picasso.
While living in exile in Switzerland from late 1914 to early 1920, Kahnweiler devoted his time to writing about art. His critical essays appeared in Das Kunstblatt and Die Weissen Blätter, often under the pseudonym Daniel Henry. Chief among the books he published is The Rise of Cubism, an early key reference work for the study of Cubism. In subsequent years, Kahnweiler produced an early monograph on Gris (1929) as well as editions created by poets, writers, and artists and beautifully illustrated by Kahnweiler’s gallery painters.
Kahnweiler returned to Paris in February 1920 and opened Galerie Simon, at 29, rue d’Astorg. It was named after his close friend and business partner André Cahen, who was also known as André Simon. The gallery remained open until 1941 when Kahnweiler’s stepdaughter Louise Leiris (née Godon) purchased it in an effort to save it from liquidation as a Jewish firm. Kahnweiler collaborated closely with Leiris at Galerie Louise Leiris until his death in 1979.