Joseph Durand-Ruel, a Paris art dealer, was part of a French family of dealers. He was the son of Paul Durand-Ruel and Marie-Eva Lafon, the niece of the painter Emil Lafon. He had two brothers, Charles Durand-Ruel, and Georges Durand-Ruel. He had a son Charles Durand-Ruel, who eventually took over the running of the Paris branch of the family firm.
In the winter of 1871 JW began exhibiting his work at Paul Durand-Ruel's New Bond Street gallery in London. Paul Durand-Ruel also held a couple of exhibitions of JW's work in his Paris gallery at 11 rue Le Péletier, showing Variations in Flesh Colour and Green: The Balcony (YMSM 56), Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter (YMSM 122) and [Views of the Thames] (YMSM 138) in 1873 and Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Bognor (YMSM 100), Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge (YMSM 140), Nocturne en bleu et argent (YMSM 149), Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket (YMSM 181), A Red Note: Fête on the Sands, Ostend (YMSM 366) and Dessin (M.1166) in 1888. A number of other of JW's paintings passed through Paul Durand-Ruel's hands including Sketch for 'La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine' (YMSM 49), Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville (YMSM 64), Study for the Head of Miss Cicely H. Alexander (YMSM 128), Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder (YMSM 203) and Alice Butt (1) (YMSM 437).
After 1888 Joseph Durand-Ruel and his brothers began to take over the running of the family business from their father. They expanded into the American market, buying works by Eugène Delacroix, the Barbizon school and the Old Masters, and later by the Impressionists.
In 1898 JW arranged with the Durand-Ruels to borrow Edouard Manet's The Execution of Maximilian (1868-69; Städtische Kunsthalle, Mannheim) for the first exhibition of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers at the Princes' Skating Club in Knightsbridge.
The brothers held exhibitions of the work of Odilon Redon in 1894, Pierre Bonnard in 1896 and Paul Gauguin in 1903. In 1911 Joseph and Georges took over control of the business, specialising particularly in works by the Impressionists.
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Monneret, S., L'Impressionisme et son époque, Paris, 1978-79; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Dorment, Richard, and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; Whiteley, Linda, 'Paul Durand-Ruel', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 25 October 2002).