Paul Durand-Ruel

Inventing Impressionism, Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery, London, until 31st May 2015
“Without him”, said Monet, “We wouldn’t have survived.” In a way that is all that needs to be written about this wonderful exhibition.

Photograph of Paul Durand-Ruel in his gallery, taken by Dornac, about 1910 Archives Durand-Ruel © Durand-Ruel & Cie

Photograph of Paul Durand-Ruel in his gallery, taken by Dornac, about 1910
Archives Durand-Ruel © Durand-Ruel & Cie

The “him” is the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) who through his unflinching support of the Impressionist artists he discovered in the early 1870s – Monet, Pissarro, Degas and Renoir, can be seen as a founder of the international art market we know nowadays.

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas Horses before the Stands, 1866-8 Oil on paper, glued onto canvas 46 x 61 cm Paris, Musée d'Orsay, bequeathed by Count Isaac de Camondo, 1911 RF 1981 © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas
Horses before the Stands, 1866-8
Oil on paper, glued onto canvas
46 x 61 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay, bequeathed by Count Isaac de Camondo, 1911
RF 1981
© RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

What makes this show is that a great many of the eighty-five works on view passed through Durand-Ruel’s hands as a dealer. He was certainly supportive of these artists in the early decades despite the opposition of the established art market.

Berthe Morisot Woman at Her Toilette, 1875-80 Oil on canvas 60.3 x 80.4 cm © The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, Stickney Fund, 1924.127

Berthe Morisot
Woman at Her Toilette, 1875-80
Oil on canvas
60.3 x 80.4 cm
© The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, Stickney Fund, 1924.127

His backing of them was not only as a dealer as he also collected and displayed the works in his home. This show takes us along the path he followed as a dealer and culminates in the 1905 exhibition in London’s Grafton Galleries which had a mind-blowing three hundred and fifteen paintings and remains the largest-ever Impressionist show. It bears witness to Durand-Ruel’s status in the art world and celebrates the hard work and energy he put into supporting the Impressionists.
I shall use the words of an 89 year old Durand-Ruel to finish: “At last the Impressionist masters triumphed … My madness had been wisdom. To think that, had I passed away at sixty, I would have died debt-ridden and bankrupt, surrounded by a wealth of underrated treasures…”

Thank goodness for his faith and vision!

Claude Monet Poplars in the Sun, 1891 Oil on canvas 93 × 73.5 cm The National Museum of Western Art, Matsukata Collection, Tokyo P.1959-0152 © National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Claude Monet
Poplars in the Sun, 1891
Oil on canvas
93 × 73.5 cm
The National Museum of Western Art, Matsukata Collection, Tokyo
P.1959-0152
© National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk

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