Impressionism is one of painting's best loved movements, but in its time it was highly controversial. If it weren't for the efforts of the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel – who tirelessly championed the likes of Monet, Pissarro, Degas and Renoir –many of its greatest works would have never gained precedence.
This exhibition at the National Gallery focuses specifically on Durand-Ruel, fierce advocate and loyal friend of the Impressionists. He became the group’s most courageous backer during the 1870s when their work was still being ridiculed or ignored. 'Without him', said Monet, 'we wouldn’t have survived'.
But more than moral or financial support, it was Durand-Ruel's revolutionary business strategies that single-handedly reversed the fate of the Impressionists. As well as stock building, exclusivity and one-man shows of 'his' artists, he transformed his Paris-based business into a global firm by opening branch galleries in London and New York.
The exhibition includes around 70 of the impressionists' greatest masterpieces, all of which were dealt by Durand-Ruel.