I have just come from visiting a fascinating exhibition at the Musée Maillol with its combination of art and history from the first half of the twentieth century revolving around the art dealer Paul Rosenberg, 1881-1953.
The exhibition entitled ’21 rue La Boétie’ is based on the book of the same name by Anne Sinclair, journalist and granddaughter of Rosenberg and it brings together over 60 masterpieces associated with Rosenberg many of which were shown in his gallery at 21 rue la Boétie. Rosenberg had a remarkable eye and passion for art and as a result he represented many of the avant garde artists of his day such as Picasso, Matisse, Léger, Braque with many of whom he developed close friendships . This was particularly true of Picasso who actually moved into 23 rue la Boétie in 1918 which allowed Rosenberg to be the first to see many of Picasso’s latest works. The gallery was a hub for these artists and during it’s Golden Age, Rosenberg held many exhibitions to promote their groundbreaking work.
However, this all came to an end with the outbreak of the Second World War and Rosenberg, being Jewish, fled to New York with his family. Prior to the war, Rosenberg had managed to ship many of his paintings abroad and before he departed for America he deposited the rest in a bank. Unfortunately, these were found and looted by the Nazis and in fact the gallery at 21 rue la Boétie was transformed, ironically, by the Nazis into the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question. Rosenberg very quickly set up at a gallery in New York and although he remained there after the war, he set about tirelessly trying to recover the works looted by the Nazis. This effort continues today by his family and with one of the success stories on display at the exhibition, ‘Woman in Blue in front of a Fireplace’ by Matisse which was only recently returned to the family in 2014 having been spotted by Anne Sinclair at an exhibition in the Centre Pompidou.
One of the first paintings to greet you at the beginning of the tour was also looted by the Nazis, this being the ‘Portrait of Madame Rosenberg and her daughter’ painted by Picasso in 1918 in the neoclassical style he had returned to after the First World War.
Another painting by Picasso, but in a very different style, which was again looted by the Nazis and appears in the exhibition is ‘Male and Female Bathers’.
Of course the exhibition includes paintings that escaped the Nazis such as the remarkable painting by Édouard Manet entitled ‘Young Woman in Oriental Garb’, also known as ‘The Sultana’. This luckily had been shipped to America just before the war broke out.
The exhibition ends with an adorable small portrait of Anne Sinclair which was painted by the artist Marie Laurencin when Sinclair was just four years old.
Laurencin was the first artist to sign a contract with Rosenberg in 1913 and she was well known for her society portraits having painted for example, Coco Chanel.
The exhibion, which runs until the 23rd July, is at the Musée Maillol, a small museum located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.
Although small, the museum benefits from a coffee shop, Café des Frères Prévert, with a lovely setting in the vaulted cellars of the museum. However, if you want to escape the confines of the museum, they are lots of lovely coffee shops and brasseries in the vicinity. And for wine lovers there is a great wine shop just around the corner, Ryst-Dupeyron. For shoppers, Paris’ oldest department store, the legendary Le Bon Marché is only five minutes walk.