Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Paul Durand-Ruel: The Impressionist gamble, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Musee du Luxembourg, Paris

Paul Durand-Ruel : The Impressionist gamble, Manet, Monet, Renoir.., Musee du Luxembourg, Paris, until 8th February 2015

The Musee du Luxembourg is hosting one of the most impressive collections of Impressionist works of art to date by the innovative art dealer Paul Durand Ruel, (1831-1922). Outside of his work as a flamboyant gallery owner Durant-Ruel assembled a personal collection of remarkable and outstanding paintings which he exhibited in his apartment at 35 Rue de Rome in Paris.
            The show opens with a colourful and masterful painting of one of Durant-Ruel’s sons by Renoir. Durant-Ruel had five children and was a devoted father and husband and he commissioned paintings of himself and all of his five children. On the death of his father in 1865 he took over the gallery and moved it to 16 rue Laffitte. The first painters he met were Pissarro and Monet and he bought many of their works. One such painting is Monet’s picture of the Thames at the bottom of Westminster, which portrays a river scene with a grey, murky river and yellow tint to the sky. Durant - Ruel took a huge gamble in 1864 and he bought 23 of Monet’s paintings despite the public ridiculing him; it turned out to be very profitable for him. One of these is a stunning painting called ‘The Reader’ which Monet painted in 1876 and which portrays his wife, Camille, seated on the grass underneath the lilac tree in the garden of their house in Argenteuil.  It is a simplistic, natural scene; we see that she is sheltering from the sun in a stunning white and pink dress. The portrait is a mixture of rounded flesh but there is also a doll like quality to her. The real subject of the painting however is light as we see Monet’s exquisite rendering of the sun and shade in this bucolic setting. Throughout the show are marvellous Monet landscapes; we see his famous ‘Effect of the wind’ which was a series of 23 stunning paintings of poplar trees where he is experimenting with changes of times, geometry and season.
            Paul Durant-Ruel also collected much of the French artist Berthe Morisot, a female artist who was also a prominent member of the Impressionist circle. One of the most beautiful paintings in the show in my opinion is Morisot’s, ‘Femme a sa toilette’ which she finished in 1879. It is a simple yet intimate portrait of the back of a lady’s head reflected by a mirror in her bathroom and which reflects her fine necklace and beautiful dress - it is as if we are voyeuristically entering into her private place. Moving onto Renoir and we see three of his most famous portraits; the dancers. These large colourful oil paintings featuring three couples dancing celebrate female beauty and feminine sensuality whilst also retaining a sense of grandeur and style. Renowned for his vibrant use of light and colour and for his portraits of people in intimate and candid settings Renoir was one of the most eminent members of the Impressionists and one of Ruel’s favourite artists.

            Paul Durant Ruel became a trend setter and the man who fed the appetites of vast private and public collections in Europe and the United States at the turn of the 20th century. His great eye and penchant for risk taking made him a huge player in the artistic world during the early Nineteenth century and he became a champion of Impressionistic art. It is a great exhibition and very much worth seeing. 

By Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor, Visitmuseums.com

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