Celebrity, art merchant, socialite, publisher, and writer, Ambroise Vollard (1867-1939) was one of the most extraordinary figures in 20th-century art. He possessed an uncanny ability to recognize genius in painters – dozens of important artists received valuable commissions and gallery space with his help, and his galleries presented the first one-man shows for such luminaries as Matisse, Cézanne, and Picasso. Vollard’s warmth, candor, and intelligence earned him the friendship of a generation of artists and make this memoir an enthralling and often hilarious account of an exciting Golden Age of painting.
Vollard’s anecdotal recollections transport the reader to Paris at the turn of the 20th century and the legendary “Street of Pictures,” the rue Laffitte, where Vollard lived and worked. Rather than critiquing artists or esthetic movements, Vollard focuses on the human sidelights that made his life as picture dealer so rich and fascinating: his early efforts to sell the works of Cézanne, despite incredible opposition to Impressionism; his dinner parties, whose guests included Renoir, Forain, Degas, Redon, and Rodin; his many portrait sittings for Cézanne, Renoir, Rouault, Bonnard, Forain, and Picasso; his observation on the studios, habits, and personalities of Manet, Matisse, Picasso, de Groux, Signac, and Rousseau; and his encounters with Gertrude Stein, Alfred Jarry, Guillaume Apollinaire, Mallarmé, and Zola.