In France, an exhibition delves into five post-impressionists championed by Durand-Ruel

Five post-impressionist artists supported by Durand-Ruel but who failed to achieve success: opens in France that aims to redress an... "injustice."

A major exhibition onImpressionism runs from May 19 to October 24, 2021, at the Proprieté Caillebotte in Yerres (just outside Paris), the splendid estate that belonged to the great Impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte and his family. Entitled Paul Durand-Ruel et le post-impressionisme, it is curated by Claire Durand-Ruel Snollaerts and Jacques-Sylvain Klein, and is dedicated to the figure of Paul Durand-Ruel (Paris, 1831 - 1922), the merchant who was the architect of the Impressionists’ fortune, and his role in promoting the painting of the Post-Impressionists.

Durand-Ruel was the gallerist for artists such as Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet, Sisley , Pissarro, and several others, but his support was crucial for five painters of the postimpressionist generation: Henry Moret (Cherbourg, 1856 - Paris, 1913), Maxime Maufra (Nantes, 1861 - Poncé-sur-le-Loir, 1918), Gustave Loiseau (Paris, 1865 - 1935), Georges d’Espagnat (Melun, 1870 - Paris, 1950) and Albert André (Lyon, 1869 - Laudun-l’Ardoise, 1954) who were linked to his gallery by an exclusivity contract. This is a little-known story, because Durand-Ruel did provide support for the five post-impressionists, but he did not live long enough to bring them success.

The five artists entered the big dealer’s stable in the mid-1990s, at a time when Impressionism was just beginning to be recognized by enlightened critics and art lovers (Monet’s views of Rouen Cathedral date from 1895). When the art dealer died in 1922, after retiring from the business for a few years, his artists did not have time to achieve notoriety. As a result, their story has remained somewhat in the shadows: today these painters, although well represented in major museums, in private collections and on the international art market, have not benefited in recent years from any group exhibition, which would have allowed them to be discovered as a group, to appreciate their value and to measure their affinities. And this even though Durand-Ruel very often had exhibited them together, both in Paris and New York.

The aim of the Yerres exhibition is to identify the stylistic proximity of these painters of the “third Durand-Ruel generation.” Three of them (Henry Moret, Maxime Maufra, and Gustave Loiseau) are landscape and marinist painters, following in the wake of Impressionism, albeit interpreting it according to their own flair. Henry Moret and Maxime Maufra also took part in the Pont-Aven adventure in the late 1880s alongside Paul Gauguin. The other two (Georges d’Espagnat and Albert André) are more in line with the Impressionist aesthetic, preferring genre scenes and decorative painting to landscape.

Finally, the exhibition is meant to be an opportunity to discover, through a highly documented catalog, the professional but also friendly relationships that united these painters with each other and with their gallerist. The curators undertook a systematic examination of the archives of the Durand-Ruel house (exhibition catalogs, stock books, account books, inventories), and analyzed all the correspondence exchanged between Durand-Ruel, the latter’s son, and their artists. In short, the exhibition aims to redress what is perceived as an injustice by presenting canvases that are very rarely exhibited, but revealing the great art of these five painters.

Image: Gustave Loiseau, Le pont suspendu, Triel (1917; oil on canvas; Private collection)

In France, an exhibition delves into five post-impressionists championed by Durand-Ruel
In France, an exhibition delves into five post-impressionists championed by Durand-Ruel

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