Archival Labels
Still Life with Checked Tablecloth
Juan Gris
Paris, spring 1915
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Zurich 1950

During the nineteenth century, Switzerland recognized that because it lacked the royal collections enjoyed by its neighbors, it would need to find an alternative way to fortify its national holdings of art. To this end, private individuals formed art societies with the aim of fostering work by contemporary artists through annual traveling exhibitions at public kunsthallen (art halls). The shows were organized by a kunstvermittler, who served as a professional art facilitator as well as an agent to galleries and collectors. One such facilitator was Carl Montag (1880–1956), a Swiss-born painter who moved to Paris at the turn of the twentieth century. By 1913 he was playing a key role in bringing contemporary art from Paris to Switzerland. He advised private collectors and was involved with the 1932 Picasso exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zürich. At the close of the show—Picasso’s first solo museum exhibition—Montag negotiated the purchase of Guitar on a Gueridon (1915; Kunsthaus Zürich) directly from the artist on behalf of the museum. It was the first Picasso to enter the Swiss museum’s permanent collection.

In the summer of 1950 (June 6–August 13), the Kunsthaus Zürich presented Ausstellung Europäische Kunst 13.–20. Jahrhundert aus Zürcher Sammlungen (Exhibition of European Art from the Thirteenth to Twentieth Centuries from Zürich Collections). Though the show featured work by more than 200 artists and offered a survey of Western art spanning nine centuries, nearly half of the works were created in the twentieth century. The exhibition catalogue lists four works by Braque, ten by Picasso, three by Léger, and four by Gris, including Still Life with Checked Tablecloth (1915). This exhibition label is still attached to the painting’s wooden strainer. The label is a standard design used by the museum for various occasions. (A similar one appears on the stretcher of Picasso’s Woman in a Chemise in an Armchair, 1913–14). It lists the lender as, “Prof. Löffler.” Wilhelm Löffler (1887–1972) was a Swiss professor of medicine and founding director of the Medical Policlinic at the University of Zürich. He is credited with introducing X-ray screening for the diagnosis of tuberculosis, and in 1932, he first described a heart condition that today bears his name: Löffler’s endocarditis.

For more information, see:
Bezzola, Tobia. Picasso by Picasso: His First Museum Exhibition, 1932. Exh. cat. Kunsthaus Zürich; 2010–11. Munich: Prestel, 2010. 

Gloor, Lukas. “Public and Private Collecting in Switzerland, 1875–1945.” Translated by Alice Kennington. The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 19 (1993): 54–61.

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