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The Jean Walter-Paul Guillaume Collection

The Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection is one of the finest European collections of paintings. It comprises 146 works, from the 1860s to the 1930s, collected for the most part by Paul Guillaume, an impassioned young French art dealer. From 1914 until his death in 1934, he amassed an extraordinary collection of several hundred paintings, from Impressionism to Modern Art, along with pieces of African art. When he died, at the height of his career, rich and famous throughout Europe and in America, he was planning to found a museum. His widow Domenica, remarried to the architect Jean Walter, transformed and reduced the collection while also making new acquisitions. She wanted to name the collection after both her husbands when the French State acquired it in the late 1950s. From then on, the collection was destined for display at the Musée de l'Orangerie.

Currently, it comprises 25 works by Renoir, 15 by Cézanne, 1 each by Gauguin, Monet and Sisley, all from the Impressionist period.

From the 20th century, the museum boasts 12 works by Picasso, 10 by Matisse, 5 by Modigliani, 5 by Marie Laurencin, 9 by Douanier Rousseau, 29 by Derain, 10 by Utrillo, 22 by Soutine and 1 by Van Dongen.

Paul Guillaume (1891-1934)

Nothing predestined Paul Guillaume to become one of the greatest art dealers of his time. He was from a modest background, and took an interest in African statuettes, and this was what attracted the attention of the poet and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), who was also fascinated by this subject. Apollinaire introduced him to the artistic avant-garde in Paris and became his mentor. In 1914, Paul Guillaume opened his first gallery near the Elysée Palace, where he exhibited Larionov, Gontcharova, Derain, Van Dongen, Matisse and Picasso. There were also paintings by Modigliani and de Chirico to be found there. In 1918, he founded a review called Les Arts à Paris in which he promoted his artists.

He moved to bigger premises in 1921 setting up his gallery in Rue La Boétie, where he put on exhibitions of paintings and African art, either alternating them or putting them on together. He then became advisor and agent for Paul Barnes, a wealthy American doctor from the East Coast, a move that brought him recognition and made his fortune. In 1930 he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, and, along with his beautiful wife Domenica (1898-1977) became a well-known figure in the Parisian smart set. He amassed one of the most exceptional collections of paintings in 1930s Europe, displaying them in the couple’s successive Parisian apartments. He was developing a project to give his collection to the French State to create the "first French museum of contemporary art" when he died suddenly at the age of 42.



Jean Walter (1883-1957)

Having detected in 1925 a rich ore body of lead and zinc close to Oujda in Morocco, he founded in 1935 the "Société des mines de Zellidja", which brings him wealth an notoriety. He married in 1941 Domenica Guillaume, the widow of art dealer Paul Guillaume.

He died suspiciously in 1957 after being hit by a car, leading some to speculate that his wife was responsible for his death.