Sidney Janis (born Sidney Janowitz, 1896–1989) bought Picasso’s Playing Cards, Glasses, Bottle of Rum: “Vive la France” (1914–15) from the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, in 1934. That same year, he loaned it to the first Picasso exhibition held in an American museum (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut). In 1935, it was on view first in Chicago, where it was included in the Arts Club of Chicago’s exhibition of Janis’s collection in April, and then in New York, along with eleven other paintings from his collection (works by Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Henri Rousseau, and others), at the Museum of Modern Art’s summer exhibition. Janis agreed not to be named as the lender to the exhibition, which the museum’s director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., recalled as an act of generosity toward MoMA, as the museum had no acquisition funds in the midst of the Depression. Playing Cards, Glasses, Bottle of Rum: “Vive la France” reappeared at MoMA’s 1939–40 Picasso retrospective.
Janis opened Sidney Janis Gallery at 15 East 57 Street in Manhattan in 1948, and sometime thereafter the gallery's label was affixed to the back of Picasso's painting. However, Janis did not display the picture at his gallery until after Leigh B. and Mary Block of Chicago purchased it in 1950. In the fall of 1953, Janis staged Fifth Anniversary, an all-loan exhibition of works by Arp, Braque, Léger, Matisse, and Mondrian, in which Playing Cards, Glasses, Bottle of Rum: “Vive la France” was hung on the wall next to Gris’s The Man at the Café (1914). Both paintings are now in the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection.
For more information, see
Greenberg, Clement. “Introduction to an Exhibition in Tribute to Sidney Janis (February 1958).” In Collected Writings. Vol. 4, Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957–1969. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993, pp. 52–54.
Janis, Sidney. Abstract and Surrealist Art in America. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1944.
Rubin, William. Three Generations of Twentieth-Century Art: The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Exh. cat. Foreword by Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and introduction by William Rubin. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1972.