Index of Historic Collectors and Dealers of Cubism
Zborowski, Jean
Zaleszczyki, 1889−Paris, 1932

Known familiarly as “Zbo,” Léopold Zborowski was a fixture in left bank avant-garde circles of Paris from the time of his arrival in 1913 until his untimely death in 1932. Friend, partisan, and eventually dealer of the work of some of the most important painters of the École de Paris, Zborowski is commonly credited with the “discovery” of Chaim Soutine. He also popularized the work of Amedeo Modigliani through a scandalous one-man show at Galerie Berthe Weill in 1917, which proved to be the artist’s last. His likeness is preserved in canvases by Modigliani (1916 and 1918; private collection, Paris and 1919; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia), Picasso (c. 1919; Cone Collection, Baltimore Museum of Art), and André Derain (1920; private collection, Milan).

Born in Zaleszczyki, a small town in the Podolina region (then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Zborowski came to Paris on a scholarship from the Austrian government in order to study poetry at the Sorbonne. Zborowski lost his scholarship, however, and turned to dealing in rare books, miniatures, drawings and prints to support himself. A budding friendship with Moïse Kisling, whose rue Joseph Bara address Zborowski shared, exposed him to the studio culture of Montparnasse, and he soon expanded his trade to include the canvases of friends and acquaintances. From 1916 Zborowski acted as an intermediary for Modigliani, Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo in their relations with the Alsatian collector Jonas Netter. In 1919, he helped the writers Osbert Sitwell and Sacheverell Sitwell organize the groundbreaking exhibition Modern French Art at London’s Mansard Gallery, which included works by Derain, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, and Utrillo. With Paul Guillaume, Zborowski arranged several large purchases of Modigliani and Soutine for the American collector Albert Barnes in 1922. That same year, having achieved financial stability for the first time since his arrival in Paris, Zborowski opened his own gallery at 26 rue de Seine.

Although his business was prosperous during its first years of operation, Zborowski was, like many of his artist compatriots, not known for his financial acumen. His bohemian roots won him the sympathy of artists, who often complained of their friend’s late or uneven payments, but his tenuous trade in pictures was weakened by the financial crash of 1929. In 1931 Zborowski was forced to cede control of his ailing business to his brother, Miezysław; in March, 1932, he died unexpectedly of a heart attack, whereupon his collection of paintings was sold to settle his debts.

Contributed by Samuel Johnson, July 2017
For more information, see:

Dmochowska, Lila. Leopold Zborowski: główny bohater historii o Modiglianim i artystach paryskiej cyganerii. Kraków: Universitas, 2014.

Miesler, Stanley. Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Restelleni, Marc. “Zborowski, le marchand-poète.” In Les Peintres de Zborowksi: Modigliani, Utrillo, Soutine et leurs amis. Lausanne: Fondation de l’Hermitage, 1994.