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Dance at Bougival
Dance at Bougival, 1883
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French
Oil on canvas
71 5/8 x 38 5/8 inches (181.9 x 98.1 cm)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Picture Fund; Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting
June 24, 2015 - September 13, 2015

 Public Tickets On-Sale April 14, 2015
 Member Tickets On-Sale April 1, 2015

See how art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel played a pivotal role in the rise of Impressionism, inspiring and sustaining artists like Monet, Renoir, Manet, Pissarro, and Degas.

Despite the popularity of Impressionism today, the groundbreaking shifts that occurred in French painting at the end of the nineteenth century were not immediately embraced by collectors, dealers, or the public. A vital figure in the rise of Impressionism is Paul Durand-Ruel (1831–1922), a practical, ambitious, and visionary Parisian art dealer who enthusiastically championed the new style of painting. Discovering the Impressionists examines the critical years from 1865 to 1905 when Durand-Ruel both inspired and sustained artists like Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, and Edgar Degas. Important works by these artists and others will be shown with historical photographs and documents to explore this period.

Born in Paris in 1831, Paul Durand-Ruel inherited his parents’ successful picture gallery in 1865. He initially carried on the shop’s traditional activities such as framing and conservation, renting pictures to amateur artists for copying, and buying and selling works of art. A great admirer of figures such as Eugène Delacroix, Jean-François Millet, and Gustave Courbet, he began to assert his own taste, shifting the gallery’s focus away from more conservative pictures toward these artists. Sales of their work would build the firm’s reputation and help to finance the dealer’s more adventurous enterprises with the Impressionists.

Exhibition Trailer

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In a series of pivotal encounters in the early 1870s, Durand-Ruel discovered a group of young, untested artists—who would become known as the Impressionists—and began to promote their work with absolute conviction. Over the next several decades, Durand-Ruel worked tirelessly to build an audience for Impressionism and to create a modern art market. His innovative commercial strategies included acquiring in depth the work of the artists he favored, gaining exclusivity by offering them monthly stipends in return for first rights to their most recent work, hosting monographic or single-artist exhibitions, and establishing an active international presence with branches in London, Brussels, and New York, which drew him into contact with influential and daring collectors around the world.

Music in the Tuileries Garden, 1862
Masterpieces discovered by the daring art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel
This exhibition, organized into a series of episodes or case studies that explore key moments in the history of the Durand-Ruel gallery, traces the development of Impressionism—its struggles, successes, and eventual recognition—and reveals Durand-Ruel’s role in the movement. The extraordinary quality of the Impressionist paintings that were once part of the gallery’s stock is a testament to the dealer’s deep personal relationships with the now-celebrated artists, his unwavering belief in contemporary painting, and his substantial business acumen.


The exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by the National Gallery, London, and by the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais in collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.


The exhibition is made possible by The Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Robert Lehman Foundation, Christie’s, The Annenberg Endowment for Special Exhibitions, and The Harriet and Ronald Lassin Fund for Special Exhibitions. Additional support has been provided by Dennis Alter, Steve and Gretchen Burke, Maude de Schauensee, John and Gloria Drosdick, Lois G. and Julian A. Brodsky, Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Linck, Martha Hamilton Morris and I. Wistar Morris III, Mr. and Mrs. John M. Thalheimer, Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, Constance and Sankey Williams, and other generous donors. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Research assistance generously provided by the Durand-Ruel Archives in Paris.


Joseph J. Rishel, The Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting, and Senior Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and the Rodin Museum; and Jennifer Thompson, The Gloria and Jack Drosdick Associate Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and the Rodin Museum


Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor

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