Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler
Paris, autumn-winter 1910
Oil on canvas
39 1/2 x 28 5/8 in. (100.6 x 72.8 cm.)
The Art Institute of Chicago
©2000 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
From John Golding, "Cubism, A History and an Analysis, 1907-1914":
"The 'Portrait of Kahnweiler'...may have helped Picasso toward a solution of [the problem of approaching abstraction], since in dealing with a particular individual he was forced to find a less difficult and hermetic means of expression; in any case the portrait serves to illustrate what steps Picasso took to make his work once again more legible. Picasso worked from a photograph he had taken of his friend and dealer who recorded that nevertheless Picasso demanded some twenty sittings...[T]he subject is made identifiable by the retention or introduction of 'keys' or 'signs' within the looser, more generalized, structure of the figure. Distinctive features of the sitter, his eyes and hands for example, are rendered with a greater degree of naturalism, and these, together with the stimuli provided by other details such as a button on M. Kahnweiler's coat, a lock of hair, or the still life to the side of him, permit a reconstruction of the subject and his surroundings; (one of the New Caledonian sculptures owned by Picasso appears in a ghost-like form to the left of the sitter); and these more realistic touches in turn forced the painter to restore or preserve the naturalistic proportions of the figure...[W]hile all subsequent paintings are understandably not as easily legible as this portrait, almost all of them do contain some kind of clue or stimulus which serves to identify the subject, and which renders it immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with Cubist iconography."