Even after the artists Weill championed moved on from her gallery, they still revered her. “They were however all very grateful to her in later years,” Gertrude Stein wrote in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (published in 1933, the same year Weill published her memoir). “Practically everybody who later became famous had sold their first little picture to her.”
Weill’s art-historical credentials were impressive, but her fame never reached the level of some of her fellow Parisian dealers. She was instrumental in giving artists their starts, but the tables have since turned so that she’s rarely more than an aside in the biographies of artists like Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani. Le Morvan first learned of Weill as an anecdote in a Picasso biography, and New York gallerist Julie Saul
(who initiated the idea to mount a Berthe Weill exhibition) read about the dealer in a footnote.
“How has she slipped through art history?” asked Parker, amazed that Weill could be overlooked.
“I almost reached the conclusion that it’s somewhat anti-feminist, and it’s somewhat anti-Semitic, and she was poor, and ugly, and short,” said Saul, who also plans to translate Weill’s autobiography into English. “I just think people don’t want to know about her because she wasn’t a big success. She never made a lot of money.”
Weill’s legacy is also obscured by the fact that she left behind few records. There are no stock books or gallery archives, and almost no personal correspondence. Le Morvan has been assembling a Berthe Weill archive for over a decade, even tracking some documents down on eBay.