In Focus

The Cubist Challenge

The following essay outlines how the Dallas Museum of Art collection came to include three major cubist pieces, Georges Braque's Still Life with Bottles and Glasses (1912), Pablo Picasso's Bottle of Port and Glass (1919), and Juan Gris' Guitar and Pipe (c. 1913).

"Impact" is the most appropriate word to capture the importance of the Dallas Museum of Art's 1998 acquisition of three major works of art by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris. This carefully orchestrated triple gift-purchase introduced the work of two major figures of the 20th century—Braque and Gris—into the permanent collection and allowed the Museum to address the seminal importance of cubism. Each of the three pieces is an important still life of great beauty, with art historical significance and impressive provenance.

The acquisition of these three paintings was made possible by Margaret McDermott's generous offer to purchase Braque's Still Life with Bottles and Glasses (1912; 1998.72.McD) through The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., contingent on the Museum's success in raising the funds required for the purchase of Picasso's Bottle of Port and Glass (1919; 1998.73). In addition, upon the successful completion of this challenge, Mrs. McDermott proposed to gift from her personal collection a still life, Guitar and Pipe (c. 1913; 1998.219.McD), by the other great cubist master, Juan Gris.

The paintings' fascinating provenances chronicle important figures in the history of cubism. The Braque was owned by the premier, pioneering dealer of cubism, Daniel Henry Kahnweiler, and purchased from his stock before its confiscation during World War I. It was later owned by Walter P. Chrysler and was subsequently in the collection of Germain Seligman in New York. The painting passed from Eugene Thaw in NewYork to Ernst Beyelerin Basel, then to a private collection in Japan. Most recently, it was owned by Angela Rosengart, who wears the mantle of her father, Siegfried, one of the most important modern art dealers of this century.

The Picasso was handled by the second great dealer of cubism, Leonce Rosenberg, whose Galerie de l'Effort Modeme dominated the avant-garde scene in Paris after World War I. The painting was subsequently owned by Earl Horter of Philadelphia, a man who had assembled a small but select group of cubist works of art. It was then purchased by Justin K. Thannhauser (a major portion of whose collection forms the basis of the Guggenheim Museum's collections) and remained in that family's hands until the Dallas Museum of Art purchased the work. The Juan Gris was selected by Alfred Barr for inclusion in his groundbreaking exhibition "Cubism and Abstract Art" at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1936. It was later deaccessioned by MoMA in order to purchase a Picasso and was recommended to Mrs. McDermott for purchase by James Johnson Sweeney, a former director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Excerpt from

Dorothy Kosinski, "The Cubist Challenge," in Dallas Museum of Art, 100 Years , ed. Dorothy M. Kosinski (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 2003), Pamphlet number 80.