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Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting
June 24, 2015 - September 13, 2015
Dance at Bougival, 1883
Masterpieces discovered by Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel
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Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting
June 24, 2015 - September 13, 2015

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Uncover the untold story of Monet, Renoir, Manet, Degas, Pissarro, and their visionary art dealer and champion, Paul Durand-Ruel.

Despite its popularity today, Impressionism was not immediately embraced by collectors, dealers, or the public. An important figure in the rise of the Impressionists is Paul Durand-Ruel, a visionary Parisian art dealer who enthusiastically championed their radical new style of painting. This exhibition 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. World-famous masterpieces by these artists and others will be shown with historical photographs and documents to explore this vital period.

This exhibition 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 his 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.

Exhibition Minutes

Exhibition Trailer

The Triumph of Impressionism

Curator Jennifer Thompson describes the Impressionists’ colorful scenes of French life. Despite receiving negative criticism from the art establishment early in their careers, the Impressionists persevered through the unwavering support of Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who promoted and sold their work around the world.
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Paul Durand-Ruel
Paul Durand-Ruel, 1910
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French
Oil on canvas, 25 13/16 x 21 7/16 inches (65.5 x 54.5 cm)
Private Collection. Archives Durand-Ruel © Durand-Ruel & Cie

The Visionary Art Dealer Paul Durand-Ruel

They will never destroy your true quality: your love of art and your defense of living artists. In the future it will be your claim to fame. —Renoir in a letter to Durand-Ruel, 1885

Paul Durand-Ruel (1831–1922) inherited a successful picture gallery from his parents in 1865. He initially continued the shop’s traditional activities such as framing and conservation, renting pictures to amateur artists for copying, and buying and selling art. He soon began to assert his own taste, shifting the gallery’s focus toward more innovative artists, including Eugène Delacroix, Jean-François Millet, and Gustave Courbet. Sales of their work built the firm’s reputation and financed the dealer’s increasingly adventurous and risky enterprises.

In the early 1870s, Durand-Ruel discovered a group of young, untested artists—later known as the Impressionists—and began to promote their work with absolute conviction. Over several decades, Durand-Ruel worked tirelessly to build an audience for their innovative style of painting and to create a modern art market. His strategies included acquiring in depth the work of the artists he favored, gaining exclusivity by offering stipends in return for first rights to artists’ most recent work, hosting single-artist exhibitions, and establishing branches in London, Brussels, and New York, which drew him into contact with influential collectors around the world.


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, Bruce and Robbi Toll, Margaret and David Langfitt, 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.

Promotional support is provided by NBC10, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Visit Philadelphia.



Joseph J. Rishel, The Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, 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 before 1900 and the Rodin Museum


Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor

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