It is not every day that we are invited to share in the excitement of the discovery of a major artistic movement such as Impressionism, but that is precisely what the current exhibition at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, which focuses on the role of gallery owner Paul Durand Ruel in that movement, evokes. It runs until February 8, 2015, and is well worth a visit.
Renoir called the gallery owner a painting missionary, referring to his key role in establishing Impressionism as the major art movement that it became. Some have argued that, without him, the movement might never have been recognized. The exhibition explores his role in promoting the movement, and reveals to what extent his own fortune was entwined with the movement’s success, the result of his willingness to place huge bets on it, in the form of spectacular purchases.
Twenty-two Manets here … Forty-five Degas there… Twenty-five Sisleys next… this was the pace Ruel set for himself in acquisitions of Impressionist works. It brought him a mix of fortune, ruin, success and fame. It brought them survival, the light of day, and eternity. Ruel’s appetite for risk was as strong as his belief in the merits of the artists whose works were spurned by their establishment. It is impossible to not see him as the heroic champion of the movement.
Many of Ruel’s acquisitions are among the 80 works on display at this exhibition, which includes paintings, drawings, photographs, and documents. This is a bite-sized exhibition which you can absorb in the space of an hour, if you are nimble.