Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler by Pablo Picasso, 1910. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman in memory of Charles B. Goodspeed, 1948.561 © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2016 © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In 1910 Picasso produced strongly characterised portraits of his dealers, including Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, using graphic ‘signs’, rather than conventional description, to conjure up an impression of their appearance and personality. These paintings demonstrated emphatically that the perceived abstraction of analytical Cubism was not incompatible with telling portraiture.

Signs for his wavy hair, broad brow, hooded eyes, beaky nose, thin lips and strong chin build a lifelike impression of his head, but one that drifts into and out of focus with the elusiveness of a memory image. Kahnweiler’s punctilious time-keeping is epitomised by the watchchain across his waistcoat, and his patience by his clasped hands resting in his lap. The graphic shorthand Picasso used to highlight these details has common ground with the abbreviations of classic caricature.