Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Bernheim-Jeune, Gaston and Jossé, or Joseph
Brussels, 1870−Paris, 1953, and Brussels, 1870−Lyon, 1941

As proprietors of the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, brothers Gaston and Joseph Bernheim-Jeune provided a home to much of the most avant-garde art of Europe for half a century. While the gallery never offered exclusive contracts to the leading Cubist painters, its record of groundbreaking exhibitions, most notably its 1907 retrospective of Cézanne, provided a bedrock for the shift in public taste that made early Cubism possible.

By the time Gaston and Jossé assumed stewardship of the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, the Bernheim family had been in the art trade for almost a century. Their father, Alexandre Bernheim-Jeune, inherited a trade in the manufacture of frames and pigments from his own father, Joseph Bernheim. After relocating to Paris from his native Besançon in 1863, Alexandre transformed his artists’ supply business into a gallery in the rue Lafitte that frequently showcased the work of Barbizon school painters. A friend of Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Delacroix, Alexandre was closely attuned to trends in contemporary painting. The favorable attitude toward experimentation that led him to exhibit the Impressionists as early as 1874 allowed his sons, Gaston and Jossé, to participate in the organization of the first retrospective exhibition of Van Gogh’s paintings, which the gallery hosted in 1901. Arguably the most significant decision made by the Bernheim-Jeune brothers as they assumed control over the family gallery was to hire Félix Fénéon to run their department of contemporary art in 1906, a position which he held until 1920. The anarchist, critic, and sometime editor of La Revue Blanche was among the most acute observers of contemporary art in Paris. Under his stewardship, Bernheim-Jeune, in its new locations in the rue de la Madeleine and rue Richepanse, exhibited Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard and Georges Seurat, among many others, and gave contracts to Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, Raoul Dufy, and Maurice Utrillo.

In 1907 Galerie Bernheim-Jeune’s Cézanne retrospective included canvases left unfinished at the time of the artist’s death, which proved pivotal in the development of Cubism. Under Fénéon’s direction, the gallery rarely exhibited Cubist painting but in further pursuit of avant-garde credentials, Bernheim-Jeune offered the definitive counter stroke to Cubism’s aesthetic coup by organizing the first exhibition of the Italian Futurists in Paris in 1912. While the Bernheims continued to favor Picasso’s early successes after World War I, as evinced by their 1922 exhibition devoted to the artist’s Blue Period, L’époque bleue de Picasso (Picasso’s Blue Period), and represented artists working primarily in a figurative mode.

The gallery remains in operation today.

Contributed by Samuel Johnson, July 2017
For more information, see:
Halperin, Joan Ungersma . Félix Fénéon, Aesthete and Anarchist in Fin-de-siècle Paris. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Galerie Bernheim-Jeune inventories are included among the Records of the Svensk-franska Konstgalleriet (Stockholm) at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.