|Pont des Arts, Paris,1867, |
|The Balcony, 1868, |
|Camille (Woman in the Green Dress),|
1866, Claude Monet
The Impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte, who had organized and funded the Second Impressionist Exhibition, walked away with Edouard Manet's 1869 painting, The Balcony for 3,000 francs. Monet's massive, life-size painting of his wife, Camille (The Green Dress) sold for a mere 800 francs. Renoir's Pont Neuf brought 300 francs. His Blue House in Zaandam from 1871-72 was sold for just over 400 francs. An Alfred Sisley painting titled Floods at Port-Marley sold for 180 francs. Twenty-two years later, the same painting sold for 43,000 francs. A painting by Cezanne titled The House of the Hanged Man, which failed to sell even at auction, sold 25 years later for 6,200 francs. With a combination of shrewdness and intestinal fortitude, and prices like these, there was money to be made buying Impressionist art.
|Floods at Port Marley, 1872|
, Alfred Sisley
|House of the Hanged Man, 1872,|
But, who was buying? Who stood to make the big bucks...err...francs? Men like Paul Durand-Ruel, who was the first to make a substantial investment in the Impressionists. The Second Impressionist Exhibition was held at his gallery, in fact. But, he didn't sell them in Paris (at least not very many there). He sold them in London, and New York, and Amsterdam. More than any other individual, Durand-Ruel was responsible for the success of Impressionism on the international market. His rival, Georges Petit was buying too. In fact, he not only bought paintings he bought artists, signing them to exclusive contracts to handle their work in his own gallery. Another man, Victor Choquet, a collector rather than a dealer, took a fancy to Cezanne and upon his death in 1891, his estate realized huge profits. These were the men who made Impressionism and they stand on an equal footing with the artists themselves. For without these financially brave and astute entrepreneurs, Impressionist paintings might today be gathering dust in Paris attics instead of the Louvre.