January 16, 2008

Kahnweiler and modern illustrated books

Henri Kahnweiler, son of a banker in Stuttgart, moves to Paris in 1902 to work for the stock market. Determined to become a paintings dealer, he frequents art shows and galleries. He meets Guillaume Apollinaire who defends a painting of Braque exhibited at the "Salon des Indépendants" in spring 1908. Kahnweiler promotes then Cubism and becomes friend with Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Max Jacob. In November 1908, he organizes the first exhibition of Braque and asks Apollinaire to preface the catalogue. A year later, Kahnweiler publishes the first book of the poet, L'Enchanteur Pourrissant. Since Kahnweiler is a paintings dealer, it appears quite obvious that the book must be illustrated. Apollinaire chooses André Derain. Kahnweiler thus becomes the first publisher to promote modern illustrated books.

During the war of 1914, Kahnweiler who does not want to fight for Germany, takes refuge in Switzerland, a neutral country. In Paris, his gallery is closed and its assets placed under seal. Kahnweiler returns to France in 1920 and succeeds in opening a new gallery with the complicity of his friend André Simon. In his home in Boulogne, Kahnweiler receives, with his wife, poets and painters. It's in this atmosphere that he mounts its publishing projects. Malraux, Artaud, Masson, Leiris, Juan Gris, Picasso, Max Jacob, Vlaminck... Kahnweiler stimulates collaborations. 24 volumes are published between 1920 and 1939.
With the second war, Kahnweiler, now French, must go into hiding because of his Jewish origins. He remains close to Limoges, while Louise, the sister-in-law of Michel Leiris, takes the direction of the gallery. At the end of the war, Kahnweiler takes back the gallery renamed Gallery Louise Leiris. Remaining an exemplary publisher, Kahnweiler disappears at the age of 94, leaving behind him 70 years of contemporary painting history. His memoirs are published in the form of radio interviews, under the title My galleries and my painters.
(source : 50 ans d'édition de D.-H. Khanweiler - a catalogue nby Jan Hugues, Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, 1959)

Currently, the library Loliée offers among the books published by Kahnweiler:
  • Vlaminck (Maurice de). Communications. Paris, Galerie Simon, 1921, in-4. First edition. Poems illustred with 19 wood engravings. One of the 90 copies on sur Holland paper, signed by Vlaminck.
  • Artaud(Antonin) - Lascaux (Elie). Tric trac du ciel. Paris, Galerie Simon, 1923, thin in-8. First edition of the first book by Antonin Artaud. Illustrated with 4 wood engravings by Elie Lascaux. One of the 100 copies on Arches paper, signed by the author and the artist.
  • Jacob (Max) - Roger (Suzanne). La Couronne de Vulcain. Paris, Galerie Simon, 1923, in-8. A brittany tale illustrated with lithographies by Suzanne Roger. One of the first 10 copies improved of a suite of the lithographies in black on China paper.