Magazine article The Spectator

'My Grandfather's Gallery', by Anne Sinclair - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'My Grandfather's Gallery', by Anne Sinclair - Review

Article excerpt

My Grandfather's Gallery Anne Sinclair

Profile Books, pp.224, £15.99, ISBN: 9780374251628

When she was four, Anne Sinclair had her portrait painted by Marie Laurencin. It is a charming picture, a little dark-brown-haired girl with a white bow, very blue eyes and a white and pink striped blouse, and it was commissioned by Sinclair's grandfather, Paul Rosenberg, one of the handful of most influential Parisian art dealers of the 1920s and 1930s. More interested in politics than family history, Sinclair -- for 13 years the host of the prestigious French weekly television news show 7 sur 7 -- waited until she turned 60 to explore the trunks of papers in her mother's attic. What she found was a remarkable archive of letters, bills, cuttings and telegrams, throwing light not only on her own family fortunes, but on the corruption and venality of the French art world during the years of German occupation and the Vichy government.

Paul Rosenberg was born in Paris in 1881, the son of a Jewish grain merchant from Bratislava who had emigrated to Paris and opened an antiques gallery near the Opéra. Here he began to collect and sell paintings by Monet, Manet, Renoir and Cézanne. Having joined his father's business at the age of 16, Rosenberg spent his days in museums and art galleries, teaching himself to identify what he thought most important in art.

When he opened his own gallery at 21 rue de la Boétie, he decided that he would buy and sell only what he himself loved. He turned the mezzanine over to Renoir, Dégas and Rodin, and filled the first floor with the lesser known Laurencin, Braque, Picasso and Matisse, hoping that the former would help finance the latter. Dali, Magritte and Miró he would not show, saying that surrealism was not 'sufficiently pictorial'. Mix up your exhibitions, he told a niece, in such a way that they 'attract the whole of your clientele, the part of it that considers itself advanced and the other more conservative part'.

Of all the painters he collected, Picasso was his greatest love. The two men, born the same year, were friends as well as colleagues, and when Picasso was looking for a house in Paris, he and his wife moved next door, to 23 rue de la Boétie. In his letters, Rosenberg addressed Picasso as 'Pic'. For him, as for his other most admired artists, Rosenberg acted as adviser, agent, even travelling companion. …

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