The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen introduces the life of a central figure in the Impressionist movement: the coal magnate François Depeaux (1853- 1920). A compulsive buyer, this Rouen industrialist owned nearly 600 paintings and drawings, including up to 55 Sisley and 20 Monet, but also masterpieces by Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro… A visionary collector, seeking a closeness to artists, he was the first to acquire a canvas from the Cathédrale series, which Monet painted between 1892 and 1893, and owned outstanding works such as In Summer by Renoir (Nationalgalerie, Berlin), or Rue Saint-Denis, celebration of 30 June 1878 by Monet (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen). Unwavering support for the artists of his time, he accompanied the Impressionist movement from its beginnings to its triumph, and ensured its entry into public collections in 1909 by endowing his city with a collection that was unique in the provinces at that time. A donation of fifty paintings by Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Renoir, Lebourg… which marked both his height and his fall. Weakened by an epic divorce, Depeaux fell back on an empire that the First World War was going to damage. In the style of storytelling, this original exhibition will relive the artistic, economic and human adventure of this captain of industry, philanthropist and collector, who was as daring as he was astute. Exceptional loans from the largest museums and from private sources will allow us to temporarily restore this immense collection, which is now scattered throughout the world.
This exhibition will also be an opportunity to introduce the public to the man François Depeaux, who, in addition to his business as a shipowner between Rouen, Paris, and Swansea (Wales), was heavily involved in Rouen cultural life. He was also a sometimes intimate friend of the artists he supported throughout his life, such as Monet, Pissarro and Sisley. Finally, he was the guardian of a certain number of painters, in particular Albert Lebourg, Joseph Delattre and Robert Pinchon, three great masters of the ‘Rouen School’, of which he was one of the most ardent defenders, as could be seen through the exhibitions he organised in Paris, Rouen and Wales to promote this regional school. The two important donations he made, one to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen in 1909, and the other to the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea in 1911, also contributed to the recognition of the Rouen School in bringing works of Norman painters into public collections, very early in the century. Although François Depeaux has previously been the subject of studies, no exhibition has ever been devoted to him. It is, therefore, together with Anne Distel's pioneering work on Impressionism and its collectors, the ‘Paul Durand-Ruel’ event at the Musée du Luxembourg in 2014-2015, and the current interest in the personalities behind large collections, that Depeaux takes his place in the history of the Impressionist movement, as one of its great collectors and one of its earliest donors, after Gustave Caillebotte (who left works to the nation in 1896) and Etienne Moreau-Nélaton (whose first legacy dated from 1906).
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue in which visitors will find all the works in the exhibition, a reasoned catalogue from the immense collection of François Depeaux, with several attempts to highlight the collector's involvement in the city of Rouen, his place among the great impressionist collectors or his relationships with the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel and artists such as Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley.
Visuel : Toulouse-Lautrec, La toilette, Madame Fabre, 1891, coll.part. Suisse