Berthe Weill

Paris, 1865–Paris, 1951

Berthe Weill was the first and only female dealer to promote avant-garde artists at the beginning of the twentieth century. She was Picasso’s first dealer, before he switched his allegiance to Clovis Sagot, whose shop at 46 rue Lafitte Weill began renting in 1920.

Born into a middle-class family, Weill apprenticed at the renowned antique shop, Mayer, on the rue Laffitte. After Salvator Mayer’s death in 1897, Weill and her brother opened a gallery at 25, rue Victor Massé in the ninth arrondissement. She was introduced to Picasso in October 1900 through the Catalan dealer, Pedro Manãch, and quickly began showing the artist’s work at her gallery. Though Picasso’s early exhibitions were not commercially successful, the artist garnered favorable attention from critics. At her gallery Weill sold Picasso’s works to a range of collectors, including the politician Olivier Saincère, and the banker André Level. Her official collaboration with the artist would last only four years, but they maintained a lifelong friendship. Picasso regularly gave artworks to Weill, who never attained financial stability.

A risk taker, Weill was armed with a strong determination to promote young artists, and the exhibitions she presented at the gallery included many artists now considered to be the forerunners of modernism. She was one of the first to defend Fauvism, displaying work by artists such as Braque, Derain, and Matisse in 1908 and 1909. Her main passion, however, was Cubism. In 1913 she organized a show that included Gleizes, Léger and Metzinger. Later that year she presented a group exhibition with works by and Gleizes, Léger, and Picasso.

Unfortunately, the artists Weill promoted progressively turned toward more established dealers, such as Ambroise Vollard and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. Whenever possible she continued to buy work by Picasso and Gris. In 1946 artists and dealers contributed over eighty works to a benefit auction held in honor of Berthe Weill at the Galerie Pierre Maurs. With the assistance of the auction’s proceeds Weill retired in 1946.

For more information, see:

Le Morvan, Marianne. Berthe Weill, 1865-1951, la petite galeriste des grands artistes. Orléans: Ed. L’Ecarlate, 2011.

Weill, Berthe. Pan !.. dans l’œil, ou trente ans dans les coulisses de la peinture contemporaine. Paris: Librairie Lipschutz, 1933.

How to cite this entry:
Tasseau, Vérane, "Berthe Weill", The Modern Art Index Project (January 2015, Revised May 2015), Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.