The Dealer Who Made Impressionism Famous

Photograph of Paul Durand-Ruel in his gallery (photo taken by Dornac, circ. 1910, all images courtesy the National Gallery, London)

LONDON — Impressionism is easily one of, if not the most, accessible and universally enjoyed art movements. Monet’s water lilies and Degas’s dancers are among many examples of the genre which have become world recognized to the point of cliché. With Paul Gauguin’s “Nafea Faa Ipoipo” (“When Will You Marry”) recently selling for a record $300m, Impressionism continues to dominate the art market. Yet what most of us do not know is that the movement’s fame was nearly never to be if it were not for one dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, who recognized the struggling Impressionists’ visual, and potentially monetary, value. This is the narrative drive of the National Gallery’s survey, Inventing Impressionism: each painting present was bought by, or at least passed through, Durand-Ruel’s hands. It turns out to be

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