It all began with the mention, by an artist friend, and suggestion to read Depths of Glory, the fictionalized biography of Camille Pissaro by Irving Stone, that eventually led me to find and read Dear Theo, the letters of Vincent van Gogh to his brother during the turbulent years of his short life. It was in the text of Vincent's letters that I found mention of Paul Durand-Ruel and another journey of discovery led me to find and read Durand-Ruel's wonderful memoir. Paul Durand-Ruel was, perhaps, the one individual who was most responsible for putting the Impressionist painters and their New Art on the map so to speak, and for bringing the attention of collectors and the public at large to their output. It was not an easy task, as paintings by Monet and Renoir and Degas and Pissaro and the others of that cadre of late 19th Century artists, were laughed at, left out of the yearly Salons, and not even noted by most collectors of the time. With persistence in the belief of their worth and ongoing financial support of the Impressionists, Durand-Ruel ultimately won the hearts and minds of of those influential collectors of the time in Europe as well as on this side of the Atlantic. The book is a marvelous read, packed with details and wonderful stories about Durand-Ruel's connections with many of the painters that we now adore and admire and treasure, but who were thought of as upstarts and nothings during those turbulent years in the art world of the later decades of the 19th Century; it is well worth the read.
And, with the recent announcement of a major exhibition to open this summer in Philadelphia of Impressionist works (something like 80 pieces in total) based upon the established connection between Durand-Ruel and all those New painters, this summer could be the time for a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see some of the finest examples of the Impressionists at the only American venue for the tour (which comes to the US from London). Tickets for the exhibition go on sale to the public on April 14th and the show will open in June and hang through mid September. I plan on being there to drink in all that greatness that was once laughed at.