Sagot is considered to be the first promoter of Cubist works, forestalling Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler by several years. He was also known for being Pablo Picasso’s first regular patron.
Sagot may have been a clown in the Medrano circus before joining his brother, the famous print dealer, Edmond Sagot, in Paris. Around 1903, he opened his own antiques shop at 46, rue Laffitte, just a few steps from Ambroise Vollard’s gallery. The various testimonies gathered on the dealer are taunting and sometimes even bitter. He had several nicknames: “Sagot Brother” to differentiate him from his elder brother or “Le Sagouin,” which loosely translates as “filthy rich,” for his greediness. Picasso himself said of him in his Conversations with Brassaï: “Paintings’ dealer, it’s too much to say…Clovis Sagot was rather an antique dealer who was also selling paintings… He was a very, very difficult man, Clovis Sagot, almost a loan-shark.”
Although no Picasso exhibition is officially recorded at Sagot’s antique shop, invoices show that many of the artist’s works passed through Sagot’s establishment. The relationship between the two men seems purely monetary: the artist would sell his works to Sagot when he had no other choice, and the dealer would negotiate ever lower prices. However, the most influential collectors of the era frequented Sagot’s shop. For example, from Sagot Leo Stein acquired his first Picasso, the gouache Famille d’acrobates au singe in fall 1905 (1905; Göteborgs Konstmuseum, Sweden), and the Russian collector Sergei Shchukin bought the early Cubist painting Femme à l’éventail (1909; The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow). André Level asked Sagot to become his adviser concerning the purchase of works by Picasso for his artistic venture, La Peau de l’Ours. Before signing an exclusivity partnership contract with Kahnweiler, the American dealer Michael Brenner also bought several Cubist works by Juan Gris from Sagot in the summer 1913. Gris also had his first solo show in the shop.
The dealer is immortalized in Picasso’s first versions of Cezannian Cubism series depicting his ‘potential’ dealers; The Portrait of Clovis Sagot (Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany) painted in 1909 precedes the ones of Ambroise Vollard, Wilhelm Uhde, and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.