Paul Durand-Ruel (1831–1922) was one of the most influential contemporary art dealers in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century. Vincent appreciated the way Durand-Ruel supported artists by selling their work before there was a large market for it. While Vincent was living in Nuenen in 1884 and 1885, Theo showed Durand-Ruel some of his brother’s drawings in the hope of garnering his interest, but the dealer was unimpressed.
When Vincent lived in Paris, he often went to Durand-Ruel’s gallery to look at art. In 1876, he bought etchings of Jean-François Millet’s The Angelus, which he “couldn't resist”, there. Years later, he went to an exhibition of work by Pierre-Puvis de Chavannes, held in the gallery from 20 November to 20 December 1887. There he saw works including portraits of a woman (Maria Cantacuzène) and Portrait of a man (Eugène Benon), which left an impression that remained vivid two years later. In December 1889, he wrote:
“As to figure, the portrait of a man by Puvis de Chavannes has always remained an ideal for me, an old man reading a yellow novel, with beside him a rose and watercolour brushes in a glass of water – and the portrait of a lady that he had in the same exhibition”
While Vincent was living in Arles, Theo kept him informed of exhibitions at Durand-Ruel’s.