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Paul Rosenberg (art dealer)

Paul Rosenberg
Paul Rosenberg, with Odalisque, 1937, by Henri Matisse
Born (1881-12-29)29 December 1881
Paris, France
Died 29 June 1959(1959-06-29) (aged 77)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Residence Paris (1881–1940)
New York (1940–1959)
Nationality French
Ethnicity Ashkenazi Jewish
Occupation Art dealer
Years active 1898–1959
Known for Representative/dealer for numerous impressionist/post-impressionist artists including Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso
Religion Jewish
Children Alexandre, Micheline
Parents Alexandre
Relatives Léonce Rosenberg (Brother)
Anne Sinclair (Granddaughter)

Paul Rosenberg (29 December 1881 – 29 June 1959) was a Henri Matisse. Both Paul and his brother Léonce Rosenberg were among the world's major dealers of Modern art.


  • Career 1
    • Paris: 1911–1940 1.1
    • New York: 1940–1959 1.2
  • Art collection recovery 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The younger son of antiques dealer Alexandre Rosenberg, both elder brother Léonce and Paul joined their father's business. Alexandre had established his business in 1878, and by 1898 had become a noted dealer of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.[1] He educated his sons in this passion through allowing them both a grand tour via London, Berlin, Vienna and New York to acquire experience and contacts. During the tour, Paul bought two van Gogh drawings and a Manet portrait for $220, which he had transported to his father's gallery and sold onwards for profit.[2] From 1906 the brothers began to work as partners within the business, and then became directors on their fathers retirement. Having established their own networks, the brothers established their own separate galleries in the city's 8th district, Paul at No.21 Rue La Boétie (from 1910, opened 1911), and Léonce in the rue de la Baume.[1][3]

Paris: 1911–1940

Léonce became a noted champion of Picasso (from 1918); Braque (1922); Marie Laurencin; Fernand Léger (1927); and latterly Matisse (1936).[1][3]

Paul's stock included pieces by all of the classical and contemporary French and major European artists, and latterly American artists, including: Marsden Hartley; Max Weber; Abraham Rattner; Karl Knaths; Harvey Weiss; Oronzio Maldarelli; Nicolas de Staël; Graham Sutherland; Kenneth Armitage; and Giacomo Manzù. The result was that from 1920, Paul Rosenberg's company was widely acknowledged to be without doubt the most active and influential gallery in the world.[1][3]

With the early artist relationships, like Kahnweiler had, Rosenberg gave the artists financial assurity by agreeing to buy their works within an exclusive contractual basis. Having lent Picasso money after his honeymoon with the balerina Olga Khokhlova, Rosenberg then found them an apartment in Paris next to his own family home, resulting in a deep adult life relationship between two very different men. Rosenberg's purchases included Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932) which Picasso made of his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, which Rosenberg sold in New York in 1951 to Frances Lasker Brody.[4] Every summer the Rosenberg family and the Picasso family would depart for the South of France, holidaying there with friends including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Somerset Maugham, Stravinsky, Ravel and Matisse.[5]

The excellent and clean reputation of Rosenberg meant that by 1935 he persuaded his noted antiquarian brother-in-law Jacques Helft to open a branch in Bond Street, London, to enable them to engage with more Americans.[1] Noted clients included museums such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) (of which Rosenberg was an early supporter and donor), and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His private clients included Alfred H. Barr, Jr.,[6] Chester Dale, Douglas Dillon, and Marjorie and Duncan Phillips who through Rosenberg enabled purchases created much of the modern collections within the The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C..[2]

Having noted the building tones of an approaching war from the late 1930s, Rosenberg began quietly distributing his collection outside of mainland Europe, to both the London branch and storage in America (via the 1939 New York World's Fair), Australia and latterly South America. He then stopped adding to his collection in France, and advised his artists to make similar arrangements. Although his distribution plans were well advanced, by the time of the 1940 Nazi invasion of France, there were still over 2,000 pieces held within his gallery and storage in France.[1] Fortunately, Paul Rosenberg and his family were able to escaped Nazi-occupied France thanks to life-saving visas issued by the Portuguese Consul-General in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes.[7]

In July 1940, Nazi Alfred Rosenberg established the Parisian base of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR),[3] whose purpose was to confiscate the masonic and art artefacts of the most important level for Hitler's planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria.[3] Specifically including the collection of Paul Rosenberg, all looted art works were initially shipped by truck to the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume,[3] where Nazi art historians, experts, photographers, maintenance and administrative personnel appraised, filed, photographed and packed the now decreed "ownerless cultural goods" for rail transport to Germany.[3][8] French officials at the end of the war, estimated that one third of all art in French private hands had been confiscated.[3][8]

New York: 1940–1959

Rosenberg, his wife, daughter Micheline and her husband Joseph Robert Schwartz,[2] all travelled via Lisbon, arriving at the Madison Hotel in New York in September 1940. There, with the help of well established friends and pieces that he had already disbursed around the world, he established a new gallery at No. 79 East 57th Street. The opening was well received by the art world, and garnered a four page article within Art Digest.

From this base post-war, he managed to reclaim and re-purchase a number of pieces from his pre-war collection, but not even a majority of the works.[1][3][5] After the end of hostilities, he personally travelled to Paris to hear the tales of the family chauffeur Louis, who told of the coming of ERR trucks not long after the family had departed.[5] On this first trip, Rosenberg managed to regain the 1918 Picasso portrait of his wife and daughter—one of three—renamed by Goering Mother and Child, from a small museum in Paris.[5]

Rosenberg later regained a number of pieces after their confiscation by the US Army. In 1953, an exhibition of 89 pieces from Rosenberg's personal and private post-war collection were displayed at MoMA.[3][9] This included Nude Reclining by the Sea (1868) by Gustave Courbet, which was taken on 5 September 1941 by the ERR from a bank vault in Bordeaux, together with another 162 of Rosenberg's paintings. After cataloging the picture at the Jeu de Paume in December 1941, it was later recovered from the personal collection of Goering. After his repatriation in New York, in April 1953 Rosenberg had sold the painting to the New York collector Louis E. Stern, who donated it in 1964 to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.[10]

Joined by his son in New York in 1946, Alexandre became a partner in 1952. After the death of his father in 1959 in Neuilly-sur-Seine,[11] Alexandre became the company's principal. In 1962 Alexandre was a co-founder and first President of the Art Dealers Association of America, remaining one of the association's permanent board members throughout his life. He also served as an adviser to both the American Government and the Internal Revenue Service on matters pertaining to art works. After Alexandre's premature death in 1987 in London from an aneurysm, whilst attending the reunion of the US Army Second Armored Division,[5] his wife Elaine took over business. Following the death of Micheline in 2007, the family agreed to donate their grandfather's archives to MoMA, which held a supporting exhibition of the collection in 2010.[1][3][6]

Art collection recovery

So called degenerate art was legally banned by the Nazis from entering Germany, and so once designated was held in what was called the Martyr's Room at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume.[3] Much of Rosenberg's professional dealership and personal collection were so subsequently designated by the Nazis. Following Joseph Goebels earlier private decree to sell these degenerate works for foreign currency to fund the building of the Führermuseum and the wider war effort, Hermann Goering personally appointed a series of ERR approved dealers to liquidate these assets and then pass the funds to swell his personal art collection.[3] With much of the looted degenerate art sold onwards via Switzerland, Rosenberg's collection was scattered across Europe. Today, some 70 of his paintings are missing, including: the large Picasso watercolor Naked Woman on the Beach, painted in Provence in 1923; seven works by Matisse; and the Portrait of Gabrielle Diot by Degas.[3][8]

In June 1940, via the Dunkirk evacuation, his son Alexandre Rosenberg had escaped to England. There he was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the Free French Forces. After being part of the D-Day Invasion, in August 1944 north of Paris a troop under the command of Lt. Rosenberg dynamited tracks north of Nazi train No. 40,044 and seized it, as it was attempting to transfer looted treasures to Germany.[5] Upon his soldiers opening the train's boxcar doors, Alexandre viewed many plundered pieces of art that had once been displayed in the home of his father. The seizure saved about 400 pieces of his father's art from being lost, including many masterpieces. Alexandre was demobilized in 1946, and left immediately for his family in New York to join his father's business. The train's interception was the inspiration for the 1964 film The Train, starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Jeanne Moreau and Michel Simon.[12]

In the mid-1950s Rosenberg lost a French lawsuit that he started to recover a Matisse in the south of France, after the judge decreed the masterpiece belonged to the defendant, Rosenberg's own family kin.[5] After the death of Paul, the family agreed under Alexandre to continue to try to recover the family art works. Consequently, in 1971 they bought back the Degas Deux Danseuses for far below its worth.[5]

In December 1987 whilst reading at the Frick Museum in New York, Elaine Rosenberg found the painting Portrait of Gabrielle Diot by Degas listed for sale in an art magazine at the Mathias F. Hans Gallery in Hamburg.[3] The listing included the fact that it had come to the current owner via the dealership of Paul Rosenberg.[3] After calling the dealer and explaining her connection to the looted picture, the dealer explained that under his confidentiality rules he could not disclose the current owner's name, but promised to let him know this very important piece of information. On calling a few days later, Elaine Rosenberg was told by the dealer that the "owner" had taken the piece from the gallery and disappeared without leaving any forwarding details.[3][8]

His granddaughter is Anne Sinclair, host of political shows and the former wife of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.[13][14] In October 1997, Rosenberg's heirs filed suit in United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Seattle, to recover the painting Odalisque (1927 or 1928) by Matisse from the Seattle Art Museum, the first lawsuit against an American museum concerning ownership of art looted by Nazis during World War II.[15] Then museum director Mimi Gardner Gates brokered an 11th hour settlement that returned the artwork, after which the museum sued the gallery which had sold it the painting in the 1950s.[16] As the sole heir to her parents' estate, after the death of her mother Micheline in 2007, Sinclair sold the painting at auction, rasing in excess of $33m.[2] In the same year she also donated the 1918 Picasso painting of her grandmother and mother to the Musée Picasso in Paris.[2]

In 2011, German tax authorities found pieces from Rosenberg's collection in an apartment rented by Cornelius Gurlitt, son of 1930s German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, in Schwabing, Munich. Over 1,500 pieces were recovered to a secure warehouse in Garching, with a present estimated value of about €1bn (£840m; $1.3bn), including a portrait of a woman by Matisse that Rosenberg had left behind after fleeing Paris.[17] Authorities are presently cataloging the works, researching their pre-war owners, and any surviving relatives.[18][19][20]

After being informed in 2012 by the London-based Art Loss Register (ALR),[21] in 2013 the family demanded that the Henie-Onstad Art Centre (HOK) near Oslo, Norway return Robe bleue dans un fauteuil ocre (Woman in Blue in Front of Fireplace) (1937), a Matisse painting that was confiscated by the Nazis in 1941.[22] Rosenberg had bought the painting direct from Matisse in 1937, and had it stored at the time of the Nazi invasion in a bank vault in Libourne, a commune in the Gironde department in Aquitaine, southwestern France. The ERR enter the vault in March 1941, and after cataloging at Jeu de Paume in September 1941, it was designated to the private collection of Goering. Then in the hands of various dealers during the Nazi period, post-war in the late 1940s it was bought by Norwegian shipping magnate Niels Onstad from the Paris-based dealer Henri Bénézit. It has since appeared in numerous publications, and toured the world on several occasions. Although under Norwegian law, due to the period of ownership the painting now belongs to HOK, Norway was one of 44 signatories to the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art. Protracted mediation, overseen by Chris Marinello, saw the painting returned to the heirs of Paul Rosenberg in March 2014.[23]

As the representative of the heirs of Paul Rosenberg in their recovery efforts, Chris Marinello is also overseeing ongoing mediation around a disputed work in the Gurlitt hoard.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h The Paul Rosenberg Archives A Gift of Elaine and Alexandre Rosenberg
  2. ^ a b c d e Dominique Strauss-Kahn's Rich Wife: How Anne Sinclair Acquired Her Fortune
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q  
  4. ^ "Picasso painting fetches record $106m at auction". BBC News. 2010-05-05. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Masterpiece plunder as Paul Rosenberg fled Europe in 1940, the nazis snatched his priceless art holdings. The search for the treasure is carried on by his descendants.. - NY Da...". Daily News (New York). 
  6. ^ a b | Paul Rosenberg and Company: From France to America"
  7. ^ Helft/Loevi/Rosenberg » Sousa Mendes Foundation
  8. ^ a b c d Bonjour Paris - The Lost Museum
  9. ^ "Art: Dealer's Choice". Time Magazine. December 7, 1953. 
  10. ^ Philadelphia Museum of Art - Collections : Provenance : Case Studies
  11. ^ "Paul Rosenberg, Art Dealer, Dies". The New York Times. July 1, 1959. 
  12. ^ Cohen, Patricia and Mashberg, Tom. Family, ‘Not Willing to Forget,’ Pursues Art It Lost to Nazis, The New York Times, April 27, 2013, p. A1; published online April 26, 2013. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  13. ^ Backing Her Man With Impressive Resources, The New York Times, May 21, 2011.
  14. ^ "DSK, Anne Sinclair Have Reportedly Separated". Huffington Post. 28 June 2012. 
  15. ^ Felicia R. Lee (June 16, 1999), Seattle Museum to Return Looted Work The New York Times.
  16. ^ "SAM to Return Matisse Odalisque to Rosenbergs".  
  17. ^ "'"Gurlitt's Matisse is confirmed to be looted 'Nazi art.  
  18. ^ "Fahnder entdecken 1500 Werke von Picasso, Chagall und weiteren Künstlern". Focus. 3 November 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "'"Nazi looted art 'found in Munich.  
  20. ^ Hall, Alan (3 November 2013). "£1billion art collection seized by Nazis found in shabby Munich apartment". London:  
  21. ^ Hax, Carolyn (6 April 2013). "Style". The Washington Post. 
  22. ^ Tom Mashberg (April 5, 2013), Family Seeks Return of a Matisse Seized by the Nazis The New York Times
  23. ^ BBC News, Entertainment and Arts, Nazi looted Matisse work returned by Norwegian gallery, 21 March 2014
  24. ^ BBC, Gurlitt's Matisse is confirmed to be looted Nazi art, 12 June 2014

External links

  • Rosenberg archives at MoMA
  • Rosenberg collection exhibition, 2010
  • The Havemeyer Family Papers relating to Art Collecting, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Paul Rosenberg acted as an art collecting advisor and buying agent for the Havemeyer family. This archival collection includes correspondence written between Rosenberg, Louisine Havemeyer and Théodore Duret.
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