Greatest Art Collectors Series:
Léonce Rosenberg

Biography of Cubist Art Collector.

Galerie de L'Effort Moderne,
19 Rue de la Baume.
Leonce Rosenberg's gallery in Paris.
A rare photograph of its interior

Léonce Rosenberg (1879-1947)


The Family Art Gallery and Dealership
Replaces Kahnweiler as Main Cubist Dealer
Galerie de L'Effort Moderne
Controversial Auctions at the Hotel Drouot
1930s Decline

For biographies of other art
collectors active in Paris, see:
Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922)
Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939)
Paul Guillaume (1891-1934)

In addition, several collectors
from America and Russia
were active. They included:
Sergei Shchukin (1854-1936)
Ivan Morozov (1871-1921)
Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951)
Duncan Phillips (1886–1966)


One of France's influential art collectors and dealers in modern art, and a champion of Cubism, Rosenberg was a vital source of support for Cubist artists during and after World War I. As owner of the Galerie de L'Effort Moderne at 19 rue de la Baume, which became a centre of abstract art - notably the paintings of the Ecole de Paris. Rosenberg bought works from and gave exhibitions for a wide range of modern artists during the 1920s and 30s. They included Francis Picabia (1879-1953), Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), Fernand Leger (1881-1955), Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), Gino Severini (1883-1966), Henri Hayden (1883-1970), Andre Lhote (1885-1962), Henri Laurens (1885-1954), and many others. He also accumulated a personal art collection which included paintings by leading Cubist painters, such as: Picasso (1881-1973), Braque (1882-1963) and Juan Gris (1887-1927). However, in the early 1920s, Léonce Rosenberg lost many of his established artists to his brother Paul, whose own gallery and dealership rapidly dominated the market.

The Family Art Gallery and Dealership

Born in Paris, the eldest son of the art dealer Alexandre Rosenberg (1842-1913), and brother of the gallery owner Paul Rosenberg (1881-1959), Léonce studied the history of art in London, Antwerp, Berlin, Vienna and New York. In the early 1900s he returned to Paris where he worked with his brother in the family gallery. At this time, Alexandre Rosenberg specialized in works by Old Masters, as well as new styles like Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. In 1906 Léonce and Paul inherited the family business, which in 1910 they divided between them. Léonce - whose first gallery "Haute Epoque" was located at 19 rue de La Baume - was drawn to hypermodern abstract paintings in the style of Analytical Cubism, most of which he encountered in the Salon des Independants, and the gallery of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.

Replaces Kahnweiler as Main Cubist Dealer

Up until 1914, German-born Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) had been the principal art dealer for Pablo Picasso and other leading Cubists. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War I forced the "enemy alien" Kahnweiler to leave France and live in exile in Switzerland. This led to the closure of his gallery and the confiscation of its stock by the French government. After the war, his collection was sold off in a series of auctions. In the absence of Kahnweiler, Léonce moved in and signed contracts with several of Kahnweiler's artist-clients, thus becoming the main source of Cubist art. Even before the war, on the advice of Max Jacob and others, Léonce had begun buying up examples of early Cubist painting: thus by 1914 he had 15 Picassos, 10 Braques, 5 Gris and 20 Herbins. With Kahnweiler in exile abroad, Léonce was now the main dealer for Cubist works. In 1915 he volunteered for military service but continued to purchase paintings during periods of leave.

Galerie de L'Effort Moderne

In 1918, despite the material and spiritual chaos of the war, Cubism was still the main force in 20th century art. After his discharge from the army, Rosenberg opened a new gallery at 19 Rue de la Baume, which he called Galerie de L'Effort Moderne. The gallery specialized in all forms of Cubist and other concrete art - including the latest Synthetic Cubism as well as the geometric art of De Stijl - which Rosenberg exhibited in a series of solo shows by a variety of established and emerging artists. In addition, during this early postwar period, Rosenberg gave financial support (in the form of purchase contracts or small stipends) to a number of needy Cubists, who might otherwise have abandoned painting altogether.

Controversial Auctions at the Hotel Drouot

During the early 20s (1921-3), the sequestered art collections of German dealers like Kahnweiler and Uhde (which included hundreds of works by Cubists like Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Auguste Herbin, Fernand Leger, Marie Laurencin, Jean Metzinger, Pablo Picasso; Fauvists like Raoul Dufy, and Jean Puy; and others) were sold off by the French government in a series of auctions at the Hotel Drouot in Paris. Rosenberg succeeded in having himself appointed as 'expert' for the sales, and was thus able to extend his holdings of Cubist paintings at knock-down prices. In keeping prices low, however, he caused many important artists to lose money and look elsewhere for representation. His brother Paul, for instance, picked up exclusive rights to works by Picasso (in 1918); Braque (1922); Marie Laurencin (1923) and Fernand Leger (1927).

From 1924 to 1928, Léonce's Galerie de L'Effort Moderne continued to be a powerful champion of avant-garde art. Exhibitions and other activities were announced and promoted through his Bulletin de l'Effort Moderne, which featured articles and illustrations by art critics Maurice Reynal (1884-1954) and Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960), and theorists like Albert Gleizes, Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931) and Piet Mondrian (1872-1944).

1930s Decline

Unfortunately, Léonce Rosenberg's business was badly hit during the 1930s Depression, particularly by the reduction in the number of American buyers. Meantime, to add insult to injury, his brother's rival business prospered significantly. In 1941, the Galerie de L'Effort Moderne was forced to close as a result of anti-semitic legislation, but by then Léonce had ceased to have any real influence in the market. He died in Neuilly-sur-Seine in July 1947, at the age of 67.


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