In the aesthetic upheaval that transformed the art world beginning in the late nineteenth century, Ambroise Vollard played a key role. This young newcomer to Paris became a pioneering dealer who introduced to the public many of the modern era's leading artists. A colorful, enigmatic figure with an excellent eye for undiscovered talent and a canny business sense, he variously inspired friendship, contempt, admiration, and envy.
Vollard's groundbreaking 1895 exhibition of paintings by Paul Cézanne—then virtually unknown—established the artist's reputation, and their continuing business relationship made Vollard's fortune. Over his long life, Vollard organized exhibitions of scores of artists, including Nabis, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse, and promoted the work of artists ranging from Degas to Rouault to Derain and the Fauves. His clients included the great collectors of the era, among them Denys Cochin and Auguste Pellerin in France, the Americans Albert C. Barnes and Gertrude Stein, the Russians Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin, and the Germans Count Harry Kessler and Karl-Ernst Osthaus. Indeed, Vollard's enterprise extended beyond dealing: encouraging artists to make prints and considerably furthering the development of the artist's book, or livre d'artiste, he published colorful print albums and collector's books that are among the most celebrated of the twentieth century.
This catalogue accompanies the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to Vollard's achievement. Its twenty-two essays examine his relationships with a number of individual artists and collectors; his business practices; his publication of bronze casts, prints, and livres; the wealth of previously unpublished material now available from his archives; and the dispersal of his collection after his death in 1939. More than two hundred important works of art that are part of his history are catalogued, described, and illustrated in color.