An illustration (impression) of front foot working

Front foot No Comments

I enjoyed visiting the ‘Inventing Impressionism’ exhibition at the National Gallery in London recently. I learnt about Paul Durand-Ruel who is credited with inventing the market for modern art and a number of the contemporary ways of marketing art too (solo exhibitions, gallery lectures etc).

He fought the Salon structure in Paris that had a hold on the definition of ‘good’ art. He supported artists – financially and, more importantly, with encouragement and hospitality. He enabled the, now, hugely popular Impressionism movement to emerge.

What was most impressive was how he had to keep trying new things – as he moved about Europe to escape conflict and as sources of finance for his deals came (and often, went). The chronology listed at the back of the exhibition guide has something significant (both good and bad) happening most years.

Durand-Rule had a vision and, eventually, was successful –  his family business profited from this for many decades after he had established Impressionism most lucratively in the US in the late 1900s and then achieved a breakthrough in the UK in the early twentieth century. The rest, as they say, is history.

You can get an impression of the exhibition following the first hashtag in this tweet.

As the final hash tag indicates, I think the story of Duran-Ruel is great example of what it takes to live on the ‘front foot’.

He was inspired – and acted on what he imagined. He was helped in the implementation and achievement of his vision by working well with his family and a range of financiers and artists (including ensuring a rapprochement with Monet). And fundamentally he had a self belief in his insights and skill.

When looking through the lens of this assessment for Front Foot working, I think Durand-Ruels does well – though probably wouldn’t recognise many of the more contemporary leadership terms (alignments, conflict, meetings), despite his skill for, and leadership of, contemporary art!


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