Art critic; first to write an insightful analysis of Impressionism. Duranty was rumored to have been the illegitimate child of the writer Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870). He studied briefly at the Collège Chaptal in Paris. In 1856 he co-founded the monthly journal Réalisme with Jules Assézat (1832-1876) and Jean-Baptiste-Henri Thulié (1832-1916), but the magazine folded after only six issues. Duranty focused his Realist energies into the closely-related literary movement of Naturalism. In the 1860s he wrote several novels in the Realist-Naturalist style more dogmatic than literary (Moffit). Duranty habituated the Parisian cafes of Café Guerbois and Café de la Nouvelles Athènes, the haunts of the intellectuals gathered about Realist art critic Champfleury, meeting among them, the artist Gustave Courbet. He encountered Emile Zola (1840-1902) in 1863 who introduced him to the painters of Impressionism; he became good friends with Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Writing in the Paris-Journal in 1870, Duranty praised the Impressionist group, attacking academic paintaing--Ingres in particular. The same year, however, Duranty challenged Manet to a duel, fought with swords in the Forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye after Manet slapped Duranty at the Guerbois for a minor review of Manet's work. With Zola acting as Manet's second and the journalist Paul Alexis (1847-1901) as Duranty's, Duranty was wounded but the affront settled; the two remained friends in future years. Duranty's fiction writing during this time included an 1873 novel on the baroque artist Duquesnoy. In 1876, Duranty wrote his important work on art, a thirty-eight page pamphlet on the second group show of the Impressionist painters La nouvelle peinture: à propos du groupe dàrtistes qui expose dans les galeries Durand-Ruel, the first serious attempt to set the Impressionist painters in an intelligable context. In it, Duranty attacked the criticisms the new style by Eugene Fromentin, who had supported academic painting. Drawing from quotations of Charles Robert Leslie in Leslie's book on Constable, Duranty set forth Impressionism as a painting phenomenon which discarding previous notions of art (Isaacson). For Duranty, the prime Impressionist was his friend, Edgar Degas (though he does not mention him by name in La nouvelle peinture): the skilled draftsman relating the figure to the context with equal attention. In 1879 Duranty refined his social-scientific theory of the emergence of modern artists in an article in Chronique des arts, "La Quatrième Exposition faite par un groupe d'artistes indépendents." La nouvelle peinture has been hailed today as "the first cogent attempt to deal with the salient characteristics of avant-garde painting as a whole during the 1870s" (Moffit). Duranty avoided the term "Impressionism" popularized by the press and initially a satirical term, preferring to call it as the "new painting." He also omitted the names of the Impressionsists in the essay. Duranty's thinking was largely influenced by the painting of Degas, the Realist writing tradition and the aethetics of Hippolyte Taine. Though his art history has "serious shortcomings" (Moffit), he placed "the new painting in an objective context in which stylistic innovation was related to contemporary social and scientific advances" (Marcussen).
"Ceux qui seront les peintres (A propos des derniers salons)." in, Desnoyers, Fernand, ed. Almanach parisien pour 1867. Paris: Pick, 1867, pp. 13-14; Les combats de Françoise du Quesnoy. Paris: E. Dentu, 1873; La nouvelle peinture: à propos du groupe dàrtistes qui expose dans les galeries Durand-Ruel. Paris: E. Dentu, 1876, English, "The New Painting: Concerning the Group of Artists Exhibiting at the Durand-Ruel Galleries." The New Painting, Impressionism, 1874-1886: an Exhibition Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco with the National Gallery of Art. Washington. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986, pp. 38-49; "La Quatrième Exposition faite par un groupe d'artistes indépendents." Chronique des arts (1879): 126-128; Le pays des arts. Paris: G. Charpentier, 1881.
[complete bibliography:] Crouzet, Marcel. Un méconnu du réalisme: Duranty (1833-1880): L'homme, le critique, le romancier. Paris: Librairie Nizet, 1964, pp. 735-761; Tabary, Louis Edouard. Duranty, 1833-1880: étude biographique et critique. Paris: Les Belles-Lettres, 1954; Moffit, Charles. "[introduction to] The New Painting: Concerning the Group of Artists Exhibiting at the Durand-Ruel Galleries." The New Painting, Impressionism, 1874-1886: an Exhibition Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco with the National Gallery of Art. Washington. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1986, p. 37; Marcussen, Marianne. "Duranty, Louis-Edmond." Dictionary of Art 9: 425-426; Isaacson, Joel. "Constable, Duranty, Mallarmé, Impressionism, Plein Air, and Forgetting." Art Bulletin 76, no. 3 (September 1994):427-450; Fried, Michael. Manet's Modernism, or, The Face of Painting in the 1860s. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp.