CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

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Léonce Rosenberg and the "Frenchness" of Cubism. Tradition, National Identity and the Art Market

Session 6 Politics of Identity: Tradition and Origin

Humboldt University of Berlin,Paris West University Nanterre La Défense


The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 reoriented artistic and art market strategies. In France, many prominent art dealers of German origin had to flee Paris. Those who stayed in the city shaped the development of the French art market and of avant-garde art. The French-Jewish collector, publisher and art dealer Léonce Rosenberg is one of these figures. His distinctive yet relatively unexplored role as a patron of a new “French Movement of Cubism”, as he called it, based on the French tradition, is at the core of this paper. This newly conceived movement had to represent a collective effort, presenting Cubism – thus far considered as ‘boche’, or German, on the eve of the Great War – almost as the French style. Yet many artists – Picasso, Severini, Léger – to name only a few, were rather quick to reject Léonce Rosenberg’s centralized version of a collective Cubism, preferring to orient themselves towards individual originality as well as to modern figurative art. Rosenberg’s pamphlet Cubism and Tradition (1920) represents his stance on this ‘project’. Its critical positions, I will argue, belong to the broader process of assessment of national identity taking place in early 20th-century France.


Keywords: art market, Cubism, avant-garde, tradition, Léonce Rosenberg, Picasso, 20th century France, World War I, interwar period



Meta Marija Valiusaityte is a PhD candidate in Art History at the Humboldt University of Berlin and at the Paris West University Nanterre La Défense. Her research focuses on interactions between art practice, art history, philosophy, and politics in French and Italian Modernism, between the fin de siècle and World War II. She is currently writing her dissertation on crisis and the return to portraiture in Paris, 1913-1926.

Formerly Meta Valiusaityte was research assistant for Prof. Peter Weibel, CEO of the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany and predoctoral fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz Max-Planck-Institut. She has lectured in the Art History Department of the Université Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne, focusing on cultural policy, history, and historiography of the art market. She holds an M.A. from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, with a major in Art History and minors in Political Science and Italian Literature as well as an M.A. in Museology from the École du Louvre, Paris.