The Durand-Ruel Impressionists



As the art market slumbers during the summer months, preparations are underway for the major autumn sales, the dates of which have already been announced. The first big events are located in New York during September with sales of Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean art on the 16th at Christie’s and the 17th at Sotheby’s, and then Contemporary Art sales on the 23rd at Christie’s and the 24th at Sotheby’s.Although no catalogues have as yet been published, certain information has already generated a high level of market interest. For example, Sotheby’s NY has announced the sale on 4 November of a number of Impressionist paintings from the Paul Durand-Ruel collection.

The works in the Paul Durand-Ruel collection were bought directly from the artists. The majority have not left the collection since and none have appeared on the secondary market since their acquisition. Remember that Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) was actively involved in supporting the Impressionists and he bought as many of their paintings as he could. Having acquired a handsome stock of such works, he exhibited them in New York in 1886, a fact which considerably contributed to the international dimension of their subsequent notoriety. Up until his death in 1922, he bought an incredible quantity of paintings, estimated at nearly 12,000 works, including more than 1,000 by Claude MONET, 1,500 by Pierre-Auguste RENOIR, 400 by Edgar DEGAS, 400 by Alfred SISLEY, 800 by Camille PISSARRO, 200 by Édouard MANET and 400 by Mary CASSATT.

The prestige of their origin and of the selection “by eye and by spirit” of the greatest dealer and collector of Impressionist works of all time will no doubt make a major contribution to demand for the works presented. Sotheby’s has nevertheless decided that the estimates will remain “reasonable” despite the exceptional pedigree.
Thus, for example, the price range for the view of Rouen painted by Camille Pissarro in 1898 and entitled, Le Pont Boieldieu et la Gare d’Orléans, Rouen, Soleil, has been set at $2m to $3m. A reasonable estimate indeed considering that the work is from a series on the Pont de Boieldieu, one of which – Le Pont Boïeldieu et la gare d’Orléans, Rouen, matin, cinq heures – was acquired for $2.6m (£1.4m) at Christie’s in London on 20 June 2006. Another Pissarro is due to appear in the catalogue: Jardin du Louvre, Effet de Neige (1899) that was part of a series of paintings executed at the window of his Parisian flat. The piece is estimated at between $1.25m and $1.85m. A couple of weeks before completing the work, Pissaro put the finishing touches to his Carousel, matin d’automne, a masterpiece that also has the Louvre as its subject and which doubled its estimate at Sotheby’s in London on 8 February 2005, fetching £1.55m (nearly $2.9m).

Among the star lots on offer, there will be Alfred Sisley’s Seine à Argenteuil (1870) which could well fetch the artist’s best price in 2009 if it reaches its estimate of $1.5m – $2m and some works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, including a Baigneuse priced at between $700,000 and $1m and a Nature Morte aux Pommes et Poires at between $350,000 and $450,000. The most accomplished of the Renoir masterpieces is entitled Femme au chapeau blanc executed at the beginning of the 1890s. The work depicts the profile of a young girl and was an excellent pretext for the painter to work on a pretty red-head crowned by a large white tulle hat curving down over her face. The painting is estimated at between $2.5 and $3.5m. We haven’t seen such elegant headgear at auction since the sale of Jeune fille au chapeau fleuri (1900) that fetched $3.2m on 8 November 2006 at Christie’s NY. During the 1890s, Durand-Ruel told the painter that hats were going out of fashion and that his works would have greater success if the women were depicted bare-headed. Renoir’s art has of course outlived the vagaries of fashion and a painting of a simple ribboned straw hat on the head of a young girl fetched $5m at the summit of the last previous market bubble on 17 May 1990 at Sotheby’s New York.