Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Ozenfant, Amédée
Saint-Quentin, France, 1886–Cannes, 1966

A French artist, writer, and teacher active primarily in France and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, Amédée Ozenfant is best known as co-author of the art manifesto Après le Cubisme (1918) and co-inventor with the architect Le Corbusier of the art movement Purism, a post-World War I critical reaction to Cubism. Ozenfant was the son of a successful construction business owner and commenced his art education in his hometown of Saint-Quentin before moving to Paris around 1907. There he studied architecture and painting, briefly attending the Académie de la Palette and taking courses at the Collège de France. Among his earliest artist friends were Roger de la Fresnaye and Sonia Terk (later Sonia Terk Delaunay). He married Zina Klingberg, a Russian art student, and between 1910 and 1913, the couple split their time between France and Russia; they divorced in 1918.

With the onset of World War I, Ozenfant’s artistic development reached a formative phase during which he was in contact with the Cubist movement. Exempt from active service due to health reasons, Ozenfant joined the Paris-based office of propaganda for the French government and between April 1915 and December 1916 edited and published the patriotic cultural review L’Elan. It featured contributions of text and artworks from Guillaume Apollinaire, André Derain, Paul Eluard, Fresnaye, Albert Gleizes, Max Jacob, André Lhote, Jean Metzinger, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. Also during the war, Ozenfant engaged with Cubism both on a practical and theoretical level. He used L’Elan, for example, to defend Cubism from the political attacks that identified it as German (foreign) in origin. He also worked at the fashion house Jove, owned by Germaine Bongard (née Poiret), a sister of the fashion designers Paul Poiret and Nicole Groult (née Pauline Marie Poiret), and Jeanne Boivin (née Poiret), a jewelry designer. Together they used Jove’s premises to organize art exhibitions, poetry readings, and musical performances to benefit artists serving at the front. Picasso was a regular contributor to the exhibitions. During this period Ozenfant also befriended the dealer Léonce Rosenberg and artists Juan Gris, Henri Laurens, and Gino Severini. In the spring of 1917, he met the architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier.

Ozenfant developed a close working relationship with Le Corbusier that lasted until 1925. Ozenfant is credited as Le Corbusier’s painting instructor. In November 1918 they published the manifesto Après le Cubisme (After Cubism), outlining the foundations and principles of Purism, and exhibited their Purist paintings for the very first time. From 1920 to 1925 Ozenfant and Le Corbusier published the avant-garde journal L’Esprit Nouveau, both contributing texts under various pseudonyms. Ozenfant’s social circle expanded to include artists and poets Jean (Hans) Arp, André Breton, Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Tristan Tzara, and Theo van Doesburg. In the early 1920s, Ozenfant also acted as an art advisor and agent to Raoul La Roche, the Paris-based Swiss banker and collector of Cubism and Purism, sharing the position with Le Corbusier. Their main source of Cubist examples by Georges Braque, Gris, Léger, and Picasso were the sequestration sales of Wilhelm Uhde’s collection and the Galerie Kahnweiler’s stock that took place at Hôtel Drouot in Paris between 1921 and 1923. Among these works was Picasso’s Student with a Newspaper (1913–14; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection). They made subsequent purchases through the dealer Léonce Rosenberg. In addition to purchases made on behalf of La Roche, Ozenfant acquired works from the same sources for his private collection, including Braque’s Still Life with Tenora (1913; Museum of Modern Art, New York) and as investments for the Société de L’Esprit Nouveau company that financed the journal. At the Kahnweiler sale on November 17–18, 1921, he also purchased a work that entered Le Corbusier’s private collection: Picasso, Still Life with a Bottle of Rum (1911; The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

In 1924 Ozenfant moved into a house and studio designed for him by Le Corbusier in the fourteenth arrondissement (53, avenue Reille; currently a private residence) and opened a fashion boutique, Amédée, with his future second wife, Marthe-Thérèse Marteau. He also commenced his teaching career, first at Léger’s Académie Moderne, which he helped establish in 1924, and from 1932 in the Académie Ozenfant, based in his own studio. As a painter, Ozenfant concentrated on large-scale mural painting and received occasional commissions for decorative wall paintings, notably from Erich Mendesohn for the architect’s villa Am Rupenhorn in Berlin. In the mid 1930s Ozenfant began spending prolonged periods of time in London, where he opened a branch of his academy. In 1939 he settled in New York, where for sixteen years he directed the Ozenfant School of Fine Arts. He returned to France permanently in 1955, settling in Cannes. During the last years of his life he was represented by the dealer Katia Granoff.

Contributed by Anna Jozefacka, February 2017 (revised August 2017)
For more information, see:

Ducros, Françoise. Ozenfant. Paris: Éditions Cercle d’Art, 2002.

Guénégan, Pierre, and Margaret Guénégan. Amédée Ozenfant: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre paint. St. Alban, Hertfordshire: Lanwell & Leeds, 2012.

Ozenfant, Amédée. Memoires 1886-1962. Paris: Seghers, 1968.

Artwork from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection Formerly Owned By Collector/Dealer:
Student with a Newspaper
Student with a Newspaper Pablo Picasso
Paris, late 1913–early 1914