The French Art Market in the 19th and 20th Century Unit

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TheFrench Art Market in the 19th and 20th Century


The situation of the art market in France in the 20thcentury marked a significant change from the past. A new approach inart was emerging alongside many new artists. Most of the emergingartists such as Matisse and van Gogh were keen on deviating from pastart conventions by using a new approach called fauvism. This changefrom the past united artists and was also experienced in otherdisciplines (Altshuler,1994). At first, the public was not ready forsuch drastic change but later accepted it. This public perception ofart then was highly influenced by major players in the market.

The main players in the market were artists, galleries/salons and artdealers. In the case Matisse, he started doing business with a dealernamed Messrs Bernheim-Jeune beginning in 1909. Matisse signed anagreement with his dealer, which he renewed several times, to sellhim his works. One key inclusion of the contract was the price ofpaintings that was determined by size of canvas regardless ofsubject. At first, the dealer had exclusive rights to all the worksof Matisse but this was to change later as other buyers were allowedto deal in Matisse’s works (Barr, 1951). Picasso also took the sameapproach and had an agreement with a dealer named Daniel Kahnweilerwho would buy his work exclusively with prices determined by size ofcanvas only (Kahnweiler 1971).

Other dealers in art influenced the market in a different way. Somehad positive impact on fauvism while others had negative impact.Vollard and Berthe were pro-fauvism and helped expand the style(Altshuler 1994). Leonce Rosenberg as a dealer was not impressed byfauvism. He encouraged artists who he had contracted to retain cubismand identify with it as a group. Some galleries were also keen topromote fauvism. Salon d’Automne achieved this by displayingfauvism art in one room with a view to create a greater focus anddisplay it as whole. In spite of such efforts, the public receptionwas not as expected at first as the art was chided and reviewednegatively (Altshuler 1994)

Therefore, by adopting such techniques, the main players in theindustry influenced the 20th century French art marketwidely. Dealers pressured artists into a certain style of art as wellas pressuring them to produce more quantities in order to achievecommercial success. Artists themselves influence the market by thechoice of style adopted especially in use of color. Salons also gaveartist space to exhibit their works. Thus, all parties a huge role inshaping the art market.


Altshuler, B.(1994). “Wild beasts caged: The salon d’Automne Paris, 1905”,The avant-garde in

exhibition: newart in the 20th century. New York:Abrams. Chap. 1, pp. 12

Barr, A. (1951).Appendix C. In Matisse, his art and his public exh. cat. NewYork: Museum of

Modern Art, pp.553-555.

Fagan-King, Julia.United on the threshold of the twentieth-century mystical idea: Marie

Laurencin’s integral involvement with Guillaume Apollinaire and theinmates of the bateau lavoir. Art history 11(1):88-114.

Gee, Ma. (1979). Theavant-garde order and the art market 1916-23. Art history 2():95- 106.

Kahnweiler, D.(1971). Appendix, translation of Picasso/Kahnweiler agreement In mygalleries

and painters. New York: Viking Press.

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