Théodore Duret

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Édouard Manet:
Portrait of Théodore Duret
James McNeill Whistler:
Portrait of Théodore Duret
Édouard Vuillard:
Portrait of Théodore Duret

Théodore Duret (born January 20, 1838 in Saintes , † January 16, 1927 in Paris ) was a French journalist , writer and art critic .


Théodore Duret was born to Jules Emmanuel Duret and his wife Angelika, née Lohmeyer, in Poitou . The father first worked as a notary before founding a trading company for cognac in 1850 . Théodore Duret first joined his father's company and worked as a sales representative for Europe.

In the 1860s, Duret increasingly turned to politics and the fine arts. A committed Republican, he ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Liberal opposition in the regional elections in 1863. Even in later elections, around 1869, he failed again. In 1865 he traveled to Portugal and Spain and by chance met the painter Édouard Manet in a restaurant in Madrid . In the following days, both of them toured the city together and a friendship developed that lasted until Manet's death.

In 1867 Duret moved to Paris, where he frequented the artist café, Café Guerbois . In the same year he published the book Les peintres français en 1867, an overview of contemporary French painting. He assumed that Manet was “painting without being able to hold the brush”. The friendship between Manet and Duret was not permanently disturbed by this statement, because as early as 1868 Duret Manet stood for a portrait model. In his book, Duret judged Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet , whom he accused of amateurism, just as harshly as he did about Manet .

In 1868 Duret founded the La Tribune newspaper , whose staff included Émile Zola and Jules Ferry . Duret later supported his friend Zola in the Dreyfus affair . At the time of the Paris Commune , Duret tried to mediate between the Communards and the government in Versailles. Together with his friend Henri Cernuschi, he campaigned in vain for Gustave Chaudey, the editor of the Siècle newspaper , whose execution by the Communards they could not prevent. In the turmoil of the Paris Commune, Duret and Cernuschi got themselves on an execution list. Both managed to escape this execution by fleeing Paris.

Duret and Cernuschi embarked on an extensive world tour over the next two years. First they drove to the USA via Liverpool, where they visited New York , Boston and San Francisco . From there, they traveled to Yokohama and stayed in Japan for several months. Here were Nagasaki , Tokyo , Kobe , Osaka , Nara and Kyoto , the other stations. This was followed by stays in Mongolia , China , Java , Ceylon and most recently in India . From this trip, which lasted until the end of 1872, both brought numerous works of art with them, which are now in the Musée Cernuschi in Paris . With his collection of Far Eastern art and the publications of his trip to Asia, Duret contributed significantly to the spread of Japonism in France.

After Duret had published a first review of the Paris Salon in 1870 , he turned increasingly to art criticism on his return from Asia. In doing so, he fundamentally changed his views on Impressionist painting. He supported the Impressionists with essays on painting and as a collector . In addition to his friendship with Manet, Duret developed a close friendly relationship with Auguste Renoir , whom he also supported financially. In 1878 his book Les Peintres impressionnistes was published with monographs on Berthe Morisot , Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro , Auguste Renoir and Édouard Manet. Duret describes the latter in this work as the founder of the Impressionist movement. Duret is also the author of the first Manet catalog raisonné. The expanded edition of Les Peintres impressionnistes from 1906 also includes monographs by Paul Cézanne and Armand Guillaumin .

Duret was one of the earliest advocates of the Impressionist painters. With his writings he tried to make it clear to the public that the new painting was not a break with tradition, but a continuation of the past. His publications contributed significantly to the recognition of Impressionism among critics and collectors.

The portrait from 1883, which James McNeill Whistler created of him, and the Duret portrait by Édouard Vuillard from 1912 testify to Duret's friendship with other painters .


  • Les peintres français en 1867 Paris 1867
  • Voyage en Asie: Le Japon, La Chine, La Mongolie, Java, Ceylan, l'Inde Paris 1874
  • Histoire de quatre ans (1870–1873) La Chute de l'Empire Paris 1876
  • Histoire de quatre ans (1870–1873) La Défense nationale Paris 1878
  • Les Peintres impressionnistes: Claude Monet-Sisley-C. Pissarro-Renoir-Berthe Morisot Paris 1878
  • Le Peintre Claude Monet, notice sur son oeuvre Paris 1880
  • Critique d'avant-garde Paris 1885
  • Histoire de Edouard Manet et de son oeuvre: avec un catalog des peintures et des pastels Paris 1902
    • German: Edouard Manet: his life and his art Berlin 1910
  • Histoire de J. Mc. N. Whistler et de son oeuvre Paris 1904
  • Histoire des peintres impressionnistes: Pissarro, Claude Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Cézanne, Guillaumin. Paris 1906
    • German: The Impressionists: Pissarro, Claude Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Cézanne, Guillaumin Berlin 1909
  • Les Napoléons Paris 1909
    • German: The two Napoleons and the Napoleon legend Berlin 1911
  • Vue sur l'histoire de la France modern Paris 1913
  • Van Gogh: Vincent Paris 1916
  • Courbet Paris 1918
  • Lautrec Paris 1920
  • Renoir Paris 1924
  • Monticelli, sa vie et son oeuvre (1824–1886) Paris 1926


  • Shigemi Inaga: Théodore Duret (1838–1927) du journaliste politique à l'historien d'art japonisant , 3 vols., ANRT, Lille 1989
  • Shigemi Inaga. Théodore Duret et le Japon. in: Revue de l'Art, 1988, No. 1, pp. 76-82. online (french)
  • John Rewald: The history of impressionism Cologne 1979 ISBN 3-7701-5561-0
  • Jean Selz: Lexicon of Impressionism Cologne 1977 ISBN 3-7701-0860-4


  1. Jean Selz: Lexicon of Impressionism p. 60

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