Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) is widely credited as the dealer who "made" the professional careers of Renoir, Degas, Manet, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Puvis de Chavannes, and other painters of fin-de-siècle Paris. Driven by the conviction that the work of the Impressionists was an artistic revelation, he led the fight against critical opinion and brought these artists to the public. His event-filled life is the subject of this absorbing biography.
Durand-Ruel risked his name, his fortune, and his family's future to become the outspoken champion of Impressionism, an art form that in France provoked only insults. By 1900 his gallery dominated the international market for Impressionism, and he had inspired a new generation of collectors, from merchant princes of Moscow to steel barons of Pittsburgh. This volume, deftly crafted from unpublished documents and letters, and illustrated with 40 black-and-white images, is an important addition to our understanding of Impressionism and collecting, as well as a dazzling tour of French and American art and cultural politics in the years before World War I. AUTHOR BIO: Pierre Assouline is one of France's leading historians and biographers. His many books include An Artful Life: A Biography of D. H. Kahnweiler.
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Pierre Assouline is one of France's leading historians and biographers. His many books include An Artful Life: A Biography of D. H. Kahnweiler.From Publishers Weekly:
This account of the life of Paul Durand-Ruel, a renowned dealer in Impressionist paintings, is not so much a biography as a breezy, rambling account of the French art world in the second half of the 19th century, with Durand-Ruel as a focal point that never quite comes into focus—despite the fact that Assouline claims an almost queasy level of intimacy with his subject. He seems to be stretching the bounds of available evidence when he speculates, for example, that "Paul felt himself secretly ... stronger" than other art dealers because he grew up among artists and, thus, "absorbed painting with his mother’s milk." Much of his narrative is related with the perfunctory storytelling and cheap emotions of a made-for-TV movie. When Durand-Ruel’s sister dies, Assouline declares that the dealer "lost the person who had been his guide and support for as long as he could remember"—never mind that this sister has been scarcely spoken of before and is never mentioned again. Even when the book enters the engrossing territory of the rise of Impressionism as a movement—which Assouline chronicles with lengthy quotations from scandalized art critics of the period—the narrative stalls out with bathetic generalizations: e.g., "We can only make deductions from the clues that exist, since we are not party to secrets, swept into wretched little piles or raised to the height of pyramids, that sometimes remain inviolate for a whole lifetime." To his credit, Assouline devotes a fair amount of space to one of the most absorbing mysteries of Durand-Ruel’s life—namely, how the art dealer could be at once an anti-Semitic monarchist and a proponent of progressive art—but his discussion characteristically loses focus and meanders away without coming to any conclusions. This is a sentimental and poorly organized tour of what should be fascinating cultural terrain.
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