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Clémence Couriet Bossan

Thesis: The life and career of French art dealer Georges Petit (1856-1920)

Supervisor: Prof Paul Smith


Over the course of nineteenth-century France, art exhibitions underwent significant changes. Alongside the official Salon grew the World’s Fairs, one alternative salon, artists-led exhibitions and a myriad of events run by private dealers. Galleries played a crucial new role in what had been, up to the 1860s, a very institutionalised industry. Georges Petit was one of the leading figures in this new world of art. Émile Zola famously described him as a "dandy, very chic", ambitious to the extreme, wanting to "ruin the Goupil firm, to surpass Brame, to be the first".

Apart from Anne Distel’s very detailed article in Les collectionneurs des impressionnistes, amateurs et marchands (1989), little is known about the dealer. Recent publications alternatively describe him as "totally lacking in artistic sense" or "an exceptional dealer". The second part of Petit’s career, leading to the auction of his possessions after his death in 1920, has barely been studied. The dealer and his influence summarily appear in various publications, yet always as part of wider historical studies, either about impressionism, French art dealing, French art institutions or modernism.

The purpose of this new research would be to shed some light on a major player of that time’s art and society life. Events at the Galerie Georges Petit were widely described and commented upon in contemporary writings (Émile Zola, Maurice Vaucaire, Jacques-Émile Blanche). Recent publications and museum exhibitions have shown the strong interest in art dealers among scholars and the general public alike. I have learned from professional experience how much influence dealers exert on what art is seen and collected.



  • 2007-2009: MA in History of Art (École du Louvre, Paris, France)
  • 2004-2007: BA in History of Art (École du Louvre, Paris, France)


  • May 2017 - now: Researcher, Fine Art Research Ltd (London, United Kingdom)
  • May 2016 - March 2017: Head of research, Auctionata Paddle8 (ValueMyStuff Ltd) (London, United Kingdom)
  • May 2015 - May 2017: Researcher, St George Valuations (ValueMyStuff Ltd) (London, United Kingdom)
  • October 2019 - May 2015: Valuation manager, St George Valuations (ValueMyStuff Ltd) (London, United Kingdom)