Exhibition sheds new light on key moments in the history of impressionism

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Exhibition sheds new light on key moments in the history of impressionism
Claude Monet, La Liseuse, 1872, Huile sur toile, 50 x 65 cm, Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum © The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

LUXEMBOURG.- This exhibition is the first to focus on the great dealer of impressionist art, Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922), who is regarded as the father of the modern art market. Following several recent events dedicated to influential art dealers such as Henri Kahnweiler, Ambroise Vollard or Theo Van Gogh, the exhibition aims to highlight the role of an eminent figure of impressionism, whose radical choices and tastes had a major impact on the recognition of artists and their inclusion in the canon of modern art.

Most of the large public and private impressionist collections sourced their works of art from the Durand-Ruel gallery at the turn of the 20th century. No impressionist sale ever took place without paintings that had previously been in the gallery. From the time that he discovered impressionism in the early 1870s until its success at the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Durand-Ruel bought, sold and exhibited thousands of works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, Morisot and Cassatt. This adventure was somewhat turbulent, and although he is now revered as visionary, Durand-Ruel took a very real gamble in putting his money on impressionism. The exhibition and associated catalogue seek to present and study this chapter in the history of the gallery and the story of the man behind it.

The gallery has gained an international reputation in the 19th century, and in focusing on Paul Durant-Ruel, the exhibition puts the spotlight on a central figure of impressionism. The collections of the Musée d’Orsay, the National Gallery and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have more than 200 works that had previously passed through his gallery. The exhibition brings together more than 80 paintings and documents from museums and private collections from around the world.

It sheds new light on key moments in the history of impressionism, from the late 1860s to 1905, when the reception, distribution and circulation of the works were considered to be important in bringing them to acceptance and understanding by a wider audience.

The exhibition is held at the Musée du Luxembourg which, at the time of Paul Durand-Ruel, hosted the Museum of Living Artists, a place where impressionists took a long time to be accepted. The dealer wanted to offer an alternative vision of contemporary art, opening his apartment to visitors. The exhibition starts with a presentation of Durand-Ruel’s “apartment-museum”, and follows on with five other sections: the dealer’s taste for the “Belle École of 1830” (Delacroix, Rousseau, Corot, etc.); his early purchases from the impressionists and Manet in London and Paris; the Depression of the 1870s seen through the impressionist exhibition of 1876; the promotion of artists through the success of solo exhibitions, illustrated by the Monet shows in 1883 and 1892; and finally the spread of impressionism to the United States and Europe, with a focus on the epoch-making exhibition at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1905.

“This is my big crime, bigger than all the others. I have long been buying, and to a very great extent, the works of very original and talented painters, several of whom are real geniuses, and I have the pretention of imposing them on artlovers. I believe that the works of Degas […], Monet […], Pissarro and Sisley are worthy of their place in the leading collections.” ---Paul Durand-Ruel in 1885

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