Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922)

A best-known member of a family of French picture dealers with interests in fashionable academic painters as well as the Romantic and Realist schools. He took over the family firm in 1865 and established himself as the main dealer of the Barbizon school painters. It was one of these, Charles Daubigny, who introduced him to Monet and Pissarro when all four had taken refuge in England from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. These "impressionists" intrigued him, so much in fact that in January 1872, he made a major purchase from Manet's studio but, in spite of active promotion and exhibitions in London, most of this stock remained unsold until years later.

Despite the general lack of interest in their work, Durand-Ruel continued to sponsor many of the impressionists over the next few decades almost single-handedly. Including artists such as Renoir, Monet, Manet, Sisley, Degas, Pissarro, and Cezanne. He was, of course not unmotivated by self-interest, and in being one of the first art dealers to exploit the system of providing regular income in return for a lien on what his artists produced, he did himself no disservice. Nor must it be thought that his relationship with the Impressionists was always a happy one. They were continually complaining, selling works on the sly to other dealers and in the case of Monet and Degas, were often downright hostile.

In 1886 he achieved a breakthrough with a major showing in New York which encouraged him to open a branch there, in addition to the ones in Paris and London. He continued to manage these branches on his own almost until his death in 1922. Looking back, Durand-Ruel may not have realized the impact that he would have on the development of art but, it is reasonable to speculate that without him, there might not have ever been an impressionist movement. And although there may have been some hard feelings between the artists and himself at times, a quote from Monet may sum up the feelings toward him:

"I shall never forget all that my friends and I owe to your father, in a very special way." - A letter from Monet to Durand-Ruel's son after his death.

Subsenquentially, information on Paul Durand-Ruel is not easily come by without some serious research, or a decent French vocabulary. Feel free to submit something better. I just wanted something in the interim.

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