Paul Durand-Ruel, a Paris art dealer, the son of Jean-Marie-Fortuné Durand-Ruel, was part of a French family of dealers. In 1862 he married Marie-Eva Lafon, the niece of the painter Emil Lafon. They had three sons, Joseph Durand-Ruel, Charles Durand-Ruel and Georges Durand-Ruel, who after 1888 began to take over the running of the family business.
Paul Durand-Ruel, who became a member of the family firm when illness forced him to leave the army, found himself particularly drawn to the work of Eugène Delacroix and the French school of the 1830s, that is, Thomas Couture, Henri Regnault, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel, Ernest Hébert and later Emile Lévy. It was the works of these men, as well as of landscape painters such as Théodore Rousseau, Charles-François Daubigny, Jean-François Millet and Narcisse Diaz, that he began to buy, frequently reserving pictures before the Salon. He later joined forces with Hector Brame, and during the 1860s bought paintings, sometimes whole collections, for a number of prominent figures including Laurent-Richard and Khalil-Bey. He was also responsible for large-scale auctions and exhibitions. In 1869, along with Alfred Sensier, he founded the short-lived La Revue internationale de l'art et de la curiosité.
During the Franco-Prussian War, Durand-Ruel escaped to London, where he met up with a number of French artists including Charles-François Daubigny, Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. In December 1870 he opened the first of ten Annual Exhibitions of the Society of French Artists at 168 New Bond Street, under the management of Charles Deschamps.
In the winter of 1871 JW began exhibiting his work at Durand-Ruel's New Bond Street gallery, taking a great interest in the framing and presentation of his work. Durand-Ruel also held a couple of exhibitions of JW's work in his Paris gallery, showing Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56), Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter (YMSM 122) and [Views of the Thames] (YMSM 138) in 1873 and Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Bognor (YMSM 100), Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140), Nocturne en bleu et argent (YMSM 149), Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket (YMSM 181), A Red Note: Fête on the Sands, Ostend (YMSM 366) and Dessin (M.1166) in 1888. A number of other of JW's paintings passed through Durand-Ruel's hands including Sketch for 'La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine' (YMSM 49), Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville (YMSM 64), Study for the Head of Miss Cicely H. Alexander (YMSM 128), Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder (YMSM 203) and Alice Butt (1) (YMSM 437). In 1898 JW arranged with Durand-Ruel to borrow Edouard Manet's The Execution of Maximilian (1868-9; Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim) for the first exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers at the Princes' Skating Club in Knightsbridge.
Paul Durand-Ruel: Lettres d'un grandpere, 1938; Venturi, Lionello, Les Archives de l'Impressionisme, New York, 1939; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Dorment, Richard, and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Whiteley, Linda, 'Paul Durand-Ruel', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 25 October 2002).