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Paul Cézanne, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1899. Musée des Beaux-Arts
July 3, 1866|
Saint-Denis, La Réunion
|Died||July 21, 1939
|Cause of death||car accident|
Ambroise Vollard (3 July 1866 – 21 July 1939) 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 Cézanne, Aristide Maillol, Renoir, Louis Valtat, Pablo Picasso, André Derain, 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 Réunion, he went to study jurisprudence in France, for a while in Montpellier, then at the École 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, at 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 – 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.
In 1930 Vollard commissioned Picasso to produce a suite of 100 etchings which became known as the Vollard Suite.
Vollard would later write biographies of Cézanne (1914), Degas, and Renoir, as well as the charming Recollections of a Picture Dealer (1936). 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.
After his death, 141 paintings and prints were put in a Societe Generale Paris branch vault by his Yugoslav assistant, Erich Šlomović. Šlomović was killed in Yugoslavia by Nazi Germans in 1942. The paintings were discovered in 1979 when the bank was allowed to open the vault to recover unpaid storage fees. A legal dispute by the heirs of both men delayed their resale which took place in 2010.
Further reading 
- Rudolf Koella & Rudolf Velhagen (ed.): Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso und ihr Galerist Ambroise Vollard, Exh. Museum Langmatt, Baden (CH) & Musée Jenisch, Vevey (CH), 2006 ISBN 3-89904-203-4 (German version) / French version forthcoming; the essential contributions by Jonathan Pascoe Pratt, London
- Sales catalogue Trésors du Coffre Vollard (Treasures from the Vollard Safe) - Sotheby's, Paris 2010
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ambroise Vollard|
- Guardian Unlimited: Portrait of the Week November 30, 2002 article
- Ambroise Vollard: Man for his Times! SohoArt mini-biography
- Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant Garde at www.artic.eduChicago Art Institute
- The Art World's Ultimate Wheeler-Dealer "CBS Sunday Morning"
- artnet "Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of The Avant-Garde"
- Miscellaneous papers regarding Ambroise Vollard, 1890-1939. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California. Collection comprises original and photocopied letters and records related to the art dealer Ambroise Vollard and the artists he represented.