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Thursday, 30 April 2015 16:32

Paul Durand-Ruel: Champion of the Impressionists

Berthe-Marie-Pauline Morisot (1841–1895), 'Woman at Her Toilette,' ca. 1875–1880. Oil on canvas, 23¾ x 31⅝ inches. Berthe-Marie-Pauline Morisot (1841–1895), 'Woman at Her Toilette,' ca. 1875–1880. Oil on canvas, 23¾ x 31⅝ inches. Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago: Stickney Fund

In 1924, at age eighty-three, Claude Monet was asked to recount the difficult early years when he and his fellow Impressionists were ridiculed for their loose brushwork, lack of finish, and modern subject matter. “We would have died of hunger without Durand-Ruel, all we Impressionists,” he said. “We owe him everything.” 1 He was referring to the Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831–1922), who for fifty years tirelessly promoted the canvases of Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, and other leading artists of the French modern school. Ironically, the art dealer (Fig. 1) whose adept marketing brought acclaim to the Impressionists is less known today than the artists he championed, a circumstance that an exhibition in Philadelphia seeks to redress.

Durand-Ruel’s deep conviction in the work of the Impressionists led him to buy more than 5,000 of their canvases and kept him on the verge of bankruptcy for decades...


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