Without the Parisian dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, the profoundly beautiful and revolutionary art of the Impressionists might have been forgotten in the annals of history. Thankfully, books were written differently, and the story of Impressionism’s rise to fame is illuminated through a one-of-a-kind exhibition.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “Dance at Bougival,” 1883, oil on canvas, digital image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.

It’s hard to imagine that at one time painters such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir were part of a group of unknown artists unappreciated by the Parisian bourgeoisie. “Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting” is currently showing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and explores the period between 1865 and 1905, when the visionary Durand-Ruel made a decisive but risky investment in this group of painters.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “Portrait of Paul Durand-Ruel,” 1910, oil on canvas, digital image courtesy
Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The exhibition begins its story with Durand-Ruel’s acquisition of his family’s successful art gallery. His preference for innovative artists was clear from his early investment in Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, and Jean-François Millet  — each of whom have paintings featured in the exhibition. The narrative continues with Durand-Ruel’s discovery of the Impressionists, a group of artists that evoked a changing, modernizing world. He financed several exhibitions of Impressionist work before promoting their work in the United States. The last gallery of the exhibition features Durand-Ruel’s personal collection of Impressionist paintings and even includes a marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin.

Mary Stevenson Cassatt, “The Child’s Bath,” 1893, oil on canvas, digital image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting” opened on June 24 and will be on view until September 13. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the exhibition’s only U.S. venue.
To learn more, visit Philadelphia Museum of Art.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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