Monday, June 22, 2015

DISCOVERING THE IMPRESSIONISTS: Paul Durand-Ruel, Review By Polly Guerin

Renoir's Dance in the Country
Where would artists who created a style known as Impressionism be without recognition, without exhibitions and most importantly support of an art gallery or art dealer?  It may be surprising to you to know that for one thing, if it wasn't for Paul Durand-Ruel, the great Parisian art dealer, leading artists of the French modern school-- Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Mary Stevenson Cassatt, and many others---may have been less well know, and perhaps their names even buried in the annals of artistic history.
   Although at that time these artists were ridiculed for their metier with lush brushwork, a ground-breaking exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting opening June 24, 2015, reunites for the first time key paintings that were shown in the earliest exhibitions devoted to their work. The exhibit features more than ninety paintings and sculptures part of the dealer's stock and tells the story of an enterprising art dealer who believed and sustained the careers of many artists such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro, and helped them to achieve great renown.
   Encounter with the Impressionists: Durand-Ruel could have remained quite content with his well-established stable of artists but his reputation for selling works of quality and inventiveness led him to an eventful encounter with Impressionism in London in 1871 when he was introduced to Monet and Pissarro. After acquiring and exhibiting their works, with Durand-Ruel's keen sense of their marketability, he soon started buying Impressionist works on a unprecedented scale. The Philadelphia Museum's exhibit revisits the boldness of this moment, displaying several of these early purchases, including Monet's views of London and Alfred Sisley's The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne.
Sisley's The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne
As if stepping into the footsteps of history the exhibition also reenacts the dramatic moment when in 1872 Durand-Ruel purchased more than twenty-six paintings by Edouard Manet, that marked a turning point for the artist. It was a visionary gamble for Durand-Ruel at a time when there was no established market for Manet. Reunited with Manet's studio are such major works as Moonlight on Boulogne Harbor.

  Durand-Ruel was a master of marketing and established a novel concept of solo exhibitions that many other rival galleries would adapt. Most notably Monet benefited not so much monetarily but through the exhibitions of 1883 and 1892 the public began to recognize Monet's unique talent. The exhibition demonstrates Durand-Ruel's pivotal role in the formation of collections in the United States, where he opened new markets for the impressionists. Not to be missed; nearly all of the exceptional works that will be on view were once part of the gallery stock of the enterprising Durand-Ruel. In addition, part of his much admired personal collection, housed in the family's apartment in Paris, will be reassembled with portraits fry Renoir, a Rodin marble, and a recreated salon door composed of still life and floral panels painted by Monet.
Cassatt's The Child's Bath

  Who was Paul Durand -Ruel? It is interesting to note that Durand-Ruel's first career choice had been to become a missionary and indeed although he did not pursue this career path his was a missionary of sorts who promoted many of the celebrated Impressionist painters. As destiny would direct in 1865 Durand-Ruel inherited his parent's art gallery. He was a bright, young twenty-four year old entrepreneur and by 1870 this young visionary discovered the equally young artists who would become known as the Impressionists. 
   Durand-Ruel was a risk taker and began to promote these "staving artists" works by offering them monthly stipends; hosting single-artists exhibitions; and establishing branches in London, Brussels and new York Between 1871 and 1922, Paul Durand-Ruel purchased an astounding 12,000 paintings by the Impressionists., making Impressionism a household name worldwide. In later years, Claude Monet summed up Durand-Ruel's role in discovering and promoting the Impressionists, "Without Durand, we would have died of hunger, all us Impressionists.".
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! Take a day trip and visit Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA. For exhibition information visit Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click in the left-hand column onto the Blog that resonates with your sensibilities and interest in fashion, visionarymen, womenderterminedtosucceed.etc.

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