During his lifetime, Paul DURAND-RUEL (31 October 1831 – 5 February 1922) profoundly altered the traditional role of the art dealer with his unwavering and absolute dedication to his artists, both financially and morally. A determined and ambitious entrepreneur, Paul Durand- Ruel became a precursor on the international art market, establishing a network of galleries in Paris, London, Brussels and New York and organising numerous international exhibitions. Completely convinced by the talent of the artists he promoted and confident in his role as the defender of their art, Paul Durand-Ruel was able to secure a legacy for the Barbizon school and, above all, the Impressionists.
31st October 1831: Paul Durand-Ruel is born in Paris. His father, Jean Durand, and his mother, Marie Ruel, own a paper-shop Durand-Ruel in Paris in which pictures by artists such as Géricault or Delacroix are exhibited. Jean sells and rents pictures. Their shop rapidly becomes a meeting point for artists and collectors, and transforms itself into a gallery.
1839: The gallery moves to the very elegant neighbourhood of Paris, 103 rue des Petits Champs, next to the Place Vendôme.
1848: The February Revolution interrupts the expanding business.
In the the following years, Paul Durand-Ruel learns the business from his father, travelling throughout France and the rest of Europe to sell pictures and discover new talents.
1855: Paul Durand-Ruel, already familiar with and appreciative of Delacroix 's work, is mesmerized before the numerous pictures the artist exhibited during the Universal Exhibition.
1862: Paul Durand-Ruel marries Eva Lafon with whom he will have five children.
1863: Napoleon III offers a Salon des Refusés, which permits the rejected artists to exhibit their pictures and allows the public to judge for itself.
Paul Durand-Ruel, then 32 years old, assumes for the first time his role as an expert during an auction, next to the auctioneer.
1865: Jean Durand-Ruel dies. Paul progressively establishes his personal and professional philosophy based on a few key principles exceptionally innovating:
- Protect and defend the art above all else
- The exclusivity of the artists’ production
- Individual Exhibitions
- A network of international galleries
- Free access to his galleries and to his apartment
- Promote the artists’ work via the press
- Associate the art world with the finance world
1870-1871: Paul discovers the work of Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, Renoir, Manet…
Paul opens a gallery in London 168 New Bond Street, and in Brussels 4 rue du Persil.
1874: The artists exhibit for the first time collectively in the studio of the photographer Nadar. Louis Leroy, a journalist, coins their name, the Impressionists, referring to Monet's Impression: Sunrise.
1876: Paul Durand-Ruel organizes the second exhibition of the Impressionist artists in his gallery. Overwhelmingly rejected, this exhibition and his gallery were declared an “insane asylum”.
1878: Paul Durand-Ruel organizes an exhibition of the artists from the Barbizon school, in reaction to the Salon which has refused their works of art that same year.
1880-1886: Paul Durand-Ruel morally and financially supports the Impressionist artists. He is the only one who regularly purchases and promotes their pictures, despite the two financial crisis he must overcome.
1883: Paul organizes, without much success, exhibitions in Berlin, London, Boston and Rotterdam.
1886: James Sutton and the American Art Association invite Paul to organize an exhibition in New York.
It is a success and becomes the first official recognition of the Impressionist artist.
It is also the beginning of Paul’s implantation in New York and in the United States.
1890-1893: The Parisian gallery's activity recovers following Renoir’s and Pissarro’s recognition, and the confirmation of Monet’s success.
1890-1914: Paul Durand-Ruel organizes exhibitions worldwide and in more than ten German cities, marking the beginning of the Impressionist’s collections in Germany.
1905: Paul Durand-Ruel organizes a very important exhibition in London with close to 300 Impressionist pictures at the Grafton Galleries. It is probably the most exceptional Impressionist exhibition of the century.
1910: After more than thirty years of friendship, Renoir immortalizes his friend and art-dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, by painting his portrait.
5th February 1922: Paul Durand-Ruel dies. Two years before his death, Paul Durand-Ruel is rewarded with the Légion d’Honneur but, ironically, not in the title of Fine Art, but in the title of Foreign Business.
Between 1891 and 1922, Paul Durand-Ruel purchases close to 12,000 pictures, including more than 1,000 Monets, approximately 1,500 Renoirs, more than 400 by Degas and as many Sisleys, about 800 Pissarros, close to 200 Manets and close to 400 Mary Cassatts.
Paul Durand-Ruel is 89 years-old when he realizes that: «Finally the Impressionist masters were triumphing as the Masters of the 1830’s had. My craziness has become wisdom. To say that if I had died at sixty years old, I would have died crippled in debt, insolvent amongst undiscovered treasures…»