The Rise of Impressionism – The Story of Paul Durand-Ruel

Way back in the 1870s a group of young artists were breaking from the traditional realist style and snubbing the academy (literally). Now-famous painters such as Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Pissarro were on the cusp of creating something monumental that would eventually change the landscape of the art world. While contemporary critics and art lovers alike are well-versed in all that is the Impressionists, their style and the artists who created the light-drenched paintings, the same can’t be said of their the 19th century counterparts. Harkening back to a time when the world was first discovering the Impressionists, the British National Gallery’s “Inventing Impressionism” is a show that takes the viewer to the 1800s and rise of a new style.

INVENTING IMPRESSIONISMPaul Durand-Ruel’s name may not be as well-known as Monet’s or Renoir’s. That said, in the art world this entrepreneur is a pivotal figure. “Inventing Impressionism” features 85 works that (except for one piece) have at one point or another been connected to the art dealer. The exhibit itself follows the beginning and rise of the Impressionist movement, tracing Durand-Ruel’s role in the eventual fame that the style achieved. Key points in the art dealer’s life and career are shown through the exhibition that is devoted to his own masterpieces – the Impressionist painters. Durand-Ruel was more than a businessman who dealt in art. He was a visionary who saw the intrinsic value of this new style, and worked tirelessly to bring it to the rest of the world.


Without wavering, Durand-Ruel prompted, promoted and encouraged the budding Impressionist painters. He’s credited with ‘discovering’ the group of young artists, but in reality he took what was already a ground-breaking movement and made it very public. For decades the art dealer brought the works of Monet and his colleagues to the world through exhibitions and contact with some of the most influential collectors of the time.

Monet - Artist's Garden at Giverny

During his lifetime, Durand-Ruel purchased more than 1,000 Monet’s and 1,500 Renoir’s along with 400 Cassatt’s and 800 Pissarro’s. “Inventing Impressionism” includes several portraits of Durand-Ruel himself with his family, as painted by Renoir.

While it was the artist themselves who in truth ‘created’ Impressionism, it was Durand-Ruel who was one of the first people in the art world to see the potential that the movement had. The current exhibition also features five of Monet’s ‘Poplars’ series and the of Renoir’s ‘Dancers’. It is currently on display at the National Gallery through May 31, 2015.

About the Author

Erica Loop has a BA in the history of art and architecture as well as film studies. She has worked for the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Ms. Loop has taught studio-based art classes for children from toddlers to teens for the past decade along with writing freelance content across the web.