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Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1908, 82 x 65 cm, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

Ambroise Vollard (3 July 1866, Saint-Denis, La R√©union ‚Äď 21 July 1939 in Versailles, France) is regarded as one of the most important dealers in French contemporary art at the beginning of the twentieth century. He is credited with providing exposure and emotional support to numerous notable and unknown artists, including Paul C√©zanne, Aristide Maillol, Renoir, Louis Valtat, Pablo Picasso, Georges Rouault, Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh. He is also well-known as an avid art collector and publisher.


Born and raised in a French colony, after his matura (final exams) in La R√©union, he went to study jurisprudence in France, for a while in Montpellier, then at the √Čcole de droit in Paris, where he received his degree in 1888.

Meanwhile, Vollard himself converted into an "amateur-merchant", and in 1893, he established his own art gallery, Rue Laffitte, then the center of the Parisian market for contemporary art. There Vollard mounted his first major exhibitions: Manet and others were followed by Gauguin and Van Gogh (4 ‚Äď 30 June 1895); for Gabriel Mourey, French correspondent of The Studio in Paris, this was simply a matter of "Scylla and Charybdis".

Much has been made of his physical appearance and countenance (grimly described as a "large, gruff, boorish fellow" with "downcast eyes..."); however, he was also a very shrewd businessman who made a fortune with the "buy low, sell high" mantra. His clients included Albert C. Barnes, Henry Osborne Havemeyer, Gertrude Stein and her brother, Leo Stein.

Vollard would later write biographies on Cézanne, Degas, and Renoir. Vollard was killed in July 1939, at the age of 73, on his way to Paris, when his chauffer-driven car skidded off the road. Vollard died without direct heirs. Much of the art was left to extended family and close friends, although a significant number of works apparently were sold, dispersed, or disappeared during World War II.


  • Rudolf Koella & Rudolf Velhagen (ed.): Renoir, C√©zanne, Picasso und ihr Galerist Ambroise Vollard, Exh. Museum Langmatt, Baden (CH) & Mus√©e Jenisch, Vevey (CH), 2006 ISBN 3-89904-203-4 (German version) / French version forthcoming; the essential contributions by Jonathan Pascoe Pratt, London

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