This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Wildenstein Institute dated Paris, 28 May 2007.
The French painter Pierre Auguste Renoir was one of the central figures of the Impressionist movement. His work is characterized by a richness of feeling and a warmth of response to the world and the people in it.
Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, France, on February 25, 1841, the sixth of Léonard Renoir and Marguerite Merlet's seven children. His father was a tailor, and his mother was a dressmaker. His family moved to Paris, France, in 1844. Because he showed a remarkable talent for drawing, Renoir became an apprentice in a porcelain factory, where he painted plates. Later, after the factory had gone out of business, he worked for his older brother, decorating fans. Throughout these early years Renoir made frequent visits to the Louvre, where he studied the art of earlier French masters, particularly those of the eighteenth century—Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, and Jean Honoré Fragonard. His deep respect for these artists influenced his own painting throughout his career.
In 1862, Renoir decided to study painting seriously and entered the studio of the painter Charles Gleyre, where he met other artists such as Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Jean Frédéric Bazille. During the next six years Renoir's art revealed the influence of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, the two most innovative painters of the 1850s and 1860s. Courbet's influence is especially evident in the bold Diane Chasseresse (1867), while Manet's influence can be seen in the flat tones of Alfred Sisley and His Wife (1868). Still, both paintings reveal a sense of intimacy that is characteristic of Renoir's personal style.
The 1860s were difficult years for Renoir. At times, he was too poor to buy paints or canvas, and the Salons of 1866 and 1867 rejected his works. The following year the Salon accepted his painting Lise, a portrait of his girlfriend, Lise Tréhot. He continued to develop his work and to study the paintings of other artists of the day—not only Courbet and Manet, but Camille Corot and Eugène Delacroix as well. Renoir's debt to Delacroix is apparent in the lush Odalisque of 1870.
At this time, a revolution was beginning in French painting. A number of young painters began to rebel against the traditions of Western painting and went directly to nature for their inspiration, as well as drawing from the actual society they were a part of. As a result, their works revealed a freshness that in many ways departed from previous painting. The new art displayed bright light and color, and these qualities, among others, signaled the beginning of Impressionist art.
The styles of Renoir and Monet were almost identical at this time, a sign of the dedication with which they pursued and shared their new discoveries. During the 1870s, they continued to work together at times, although their styles generally developed in more personal directions. In 1874, Renoir participated in the first Impressionist exhibition. Of all the Impressionists, Renoir most thoroughly adapted the new style to the great tradition of figure painting.
Although the Impressionist exhibitions were the target of much public scorn during the 1870s, Renoir's popularity gradually increased during this time. He became a friend of Caillebotte, one of the first supporters of the Impressionists, and he was also backed by several art dealers and collectors. The artist's connection with these individuals is documented in a number of handsome portraits, for instance, Madame Charpentier and Her Children (1878). In the 1870s, Renoir also produced some of his most celebrated Impressionist scenes, including the Swing and the Moulin de la Galette (both 1876). These works show men and women together, openly and casually enjoying a society bathed in warm sunlight. Figures blend softly into one another and into the space surrounding them. These paintings are pleasurable and full of human feeling.
During the 1880s Renoir began to separate himself from the Impressionists, largely because he became unhappy with the direction the new style was taking in his own hands. In paintings like the Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880–81), he felt that his style was becoming too loose and that forms were becoming less distinct. As a result, he looked to the past for a fresh inspiration. In 1881, he traveled to Italy and was particularly impressed by the art of Raphael.
By the end of the 1880s, Renoir had passed through his dry period. His late work is truly remarkable: a glorious outpouring of nude figures, beautiful young girls, and lush landscapes. Examples of this style include the Music Lesson (1891), Young Girl Reading (1892), and Sleeping Bather (1897). In many ways, the generosity of feeling in these paintings expands on the achievements of his great work of the 1870s.
Renoir's health declined severely in his later years. In 1903, he suffered his first attack of arthritis and settled for the winter at Cagnes-sur-Mer, France. The arthritis made painting painful and often impossible. Still, he continued to work, at times with a brush tied to his crippled hand. Renoir died at Cagnes-sur-Mer on December 3, 1919, but not before an experience of supreme triumph: the state had purchased his portrait Madame Georges Charpentier (1877), and he traveled to Paris in August to see it hanging in the Louvre.
This portrait by Renoir, Jeune fille au buste, is a lovely example of the artist’s work, and truly displays his sensitivity in depicting the human form. A girl sits in 3/4 profile looking down, seemingly unaware of her audience. The peachy color in her dress is mirrored in her flushed cheeks, and the shine in her hair picks up hints of the red in the background to her right. The background to her left is a cool green that serves to highlight the warmth of her complexion and her honey blonde hair. Renoir’s brushwork is soft, indicating supple, youthful skin, and smooth hair. The quick, vertical strokes used in the paint application in the background serve to further highlight the softness of the girl herself. This treatment of the subject seems to indicate a sweet and pleasant (even shy, judging by her downcast eyes) nature in the girl, and lends the painting an air of tenderness.