The French collector Paul Guillaume belonged to a generation of Parisian art dealers who became interested in Cubism just before World War I. His collection, today known as the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection, is held at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
Part of the avant-garde circle that surrounded the French art critic and poet Guillaume Apollinaire, with whom he shared an interest in African sculpture, Guillaume opened his first gallery (Galerie Paul Guillaume) in February 1914 at 6, rue de Miromesnil. An enthusiast for the work of living artists, Guillaume promoted Giorgio de Chirico, André Derain, Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Francis Picabia, and Chaïm Soutine, among others. He was among the first to sell Cubist art after its primary dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, was exiled during World War I. Guillaume was able to establish himself as a Cubist dealer during the war. He also organized exhibitions that comprised Cubist works from his personal collection, most notably the first Société Lyre et Palette exhibition in late 1916 and the Exposition Matisse et Picasso in early 1918.
Guillaume ultimately established his gallery at 59, rue La Boétie, where his wealthy clients included Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Guillaume augmented his stock by purchasing works from dealers, including Paul Rosenberg and Ambroise Vollard, and at auction. From the Kahnweiler Sequestration Sales in June 1921 and May 1923, Guillaume purchased Picasso’s Man with a Guitar (1912; Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Woman with a Guitar: “Ma Jolie” (winter 1911–12; The Museum of Modern Art, New York). In October 1926, he drew journalistic attention when he paid 79,000 French francs for Picasso’s neoclassical portrait Woman in White (1923; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). At that time, it was the highest price paid at auction for a Picasso.
The dealer was just as passionate about African sculpture, in which he also traded. As one of the first to champion these objects as works of art, Guillaume spearheaded numerous exhibition projects, lent works from his collection internationally, and published frequently on the subject. Chief among those writings is Primitive Negro Sculpture, which he co-authored with American art historian Thomas Munro (1897–1974).
Guillaume also published exhibition catalogues (then still a rarity) as well as the periodical Les Arts à Paris (1918–35), which was not only reported on current events but was also a publicity tool to further his commercial interests. He had hoped that his holdings would be preserved in a museum dedicated to his collection but instead, his wife, Domenica Guillaume (née Juliette Léonie Lacaze, later Mme Jean Walter, 1898–1977), gave the collection to the French state.
For more information, see
Colette Giraudon. Paul Guillaume et les peintres du XXe siècle: De l'art nègre à l'avant-garde
. Paris: Bibliothèque des arts, 1993.
———. Les Arts à Paris chez Paul Guillaume, 1918–1935. Exh. cat. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1993.
Daix, Pierre, and Joan Rosselet. Picasso: The Cubist Years, 1907–1916. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and Related Works. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.
Guillaume, Paul, and Thomas Munro. Primitive Negro Sculpture. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1926.
Hoog, Michel, ed. Musée de l'Orangerie: Catalogue de la collection Jean Walter et Paul Guillaume collection. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990.
For further information on the history of the Walter-Guillaume Collection, see the website of the Musée de l’Orangerie.