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Cubism

2. Cubist milieux: Kahnweiler’s Cubists and the Salon Cubists

Source: Oxford University Press

Picasso, Braque and Gris (and to a lesser extent Léger) were nevertheless distinct in important ways from the other Cubists. Braque and Gris were based in Montmartre until after World War I, while Picasso remained there until 1912. Most of the others, including Léger, were based on the Left Bank, in Montparnasse and in the Parisian suburbs of Puteaux and Courbevoie, and they moved in different, if overlapping, milieux. Before 1914 Picasso, Braque, Gris and Léger further distinguished themselves from the other Cubists by gaining the backing of a single committed dealer in Paris, the German Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who paid each of them a guaranteed annual income for the exclusive right to buy their work and who sold only to a small circle of well-informed clients. Kahnweiler’s support gave his artists the freedom to experiment in relative privacy.

The other Cubists, by contrast, concentrated before World War I on building their reputations by showing regularly at the major non-academic Salons in Paris, the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne, and for this reason they are sometimes referred to as ‘Salon’ Cubists. Inevitably they were more aware of public response and the need to communicate. The first public controversies generated by Cubism resulted from Salon showings, not only at the Indépendants of 1911 but also at the Salon d’Automne of 1912; the latter occasion led to Cubism being debated in the Chambre des Députés, since the Salon d’Automne was held in the State’s Grand Palais and the State could, therefore, be said to have subsidized the scandal. It was against this background of public anger that Gleizes and Metzinger wrote Du cubisme (1912), not necessarily to explain Cubism but to persuade a general audience that their intentions were serious.

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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