Paul Durand-Ruel (31 October 1831, Paris – 5 February 1922, Paris) was a French art dealer who is associated with the Impressionists and the Barbizon School. He was one of the first modern art dealers who provided support to his painters with stipends and solo exhibitions.
Born Paul-Marie-Joseph Durand-Ruel in Paris, his father was a picture dealer. In 1865 young Paul took over the family business, which represented artists such as Corot and the Barbizon school of French landscape painting. In 1867 he moved his gallery from 1 rue de la Paix, Paris, to 16 rue Laffitte, with a branch at 111 rue Le Peletier. During the 1860s and early 1870s Durand-Ruel was an important advocate and successful art dealer of the Barbizon School. However Durand-Ruel soon established a relationship with a group of painters who would become known as the Impressionists.
During the Franco-Prussian War, of 1870–71, Durand-Ruel left Paris and escaped to London, where he met up with a number of French artists including Charles-François Daubigny, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. In December 1870 he opened the first of ten Annual Exhibitions of the Society of French Artists at his new London gallery at 168 New Bond Street, under the management of Charles Deschamps.
He recognized the artistic and fashionable potential of Impressionism as early as 1870, and his first major exhibition of their work took place at his London gallery in 1872. Eventually Durand-Ruel had exhibitions of Impressionism and other works (including the expatriate American painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler who lived in London), at his Paris and London galleries. He also brought their work to New York, where his three sons, Joseph, Charles, and George, ran the gallery on a daily basis, in the early days alternating established New York artists with French impressionists, and doing much to establish the popularity of Impressionist art in the United States.
During the final three decades of the 19th century Durand-Ruel became the best known art dealer and most important commercial advocate of French Impressionism in the world. He succeeded in establishing the market for Impressionism in the United States as well as in Europe. Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, are among the important Impressionist artists that Durand-Ruel helped to establish. He represented many lesser known artists including Maxime Dethomas or Hugues Merle amongst others.
Regarding the Americans’ open-mindedness towards impressionism, Durand-Ruel once said, "The American public does not laugh. It buys!" “Without America,” he said, “I would have been lost, ruined, after having bought so many Monets and Renoirs. The two exhibitions there in 1886 saved me. The American public bought moderately . . . but thanks to that public, Monet and Renoir were enabled to live and after that the French public followed suit.”
Durand-Ruel had an intense rivalry with Parisian art dealer Georges Petit (1856–1920).
Durand-Ruel was the subject of a major temporary exhibition titled "Inventing Impressionism" held at the National Gallery in London in 2015.