Before Pissarro could answer, Sisley started to read Leroy’s review of Pissarro’s painting Hoar Frost, the Old Road to Ennery (1873). ‘“Those furrows? That frost?”’ read a chuckling Sisley. ‘“But they are palette-scrapings placed uniformly on a dirty canvas. It has neither head nor tail, top nor bottom, front nor back.”’
Monet hugged himself, rocking backwards and forwards in his chair. ‘Brilliant, brilliant!’ he roared. ‘This Leroy is not an art critic, he is a comedian.’
Pissarro laughed too. He was happy enough with his picture, a bucolic scene in which an old man carrying a bundle of sticks on his back makes slow progress up a country path between two golden fields on a sunny but frosty winter’s morning.
The mood of the gathered artists lifted still further when they spotted the figure of the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel approaching.
He was as much a member of the group as any of the artists, and, in a way, just as central to the development of Impressionism.
It was Durand-Ruel’s commercial courage and entrepreneurial vision that had emboldened the young artists to conceive of presenting their own exhibition.
And it was because of the art dealer’s immovable belief in their work that they knew that even if Leroy’s attack was enough to damage them, Durand-Ruel would ensure their survival, single-handedly if necessary.