This painting will be included in the forthcoming Renoir catalogue critique being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute and established from the archive funds of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.
This painting will be included in volume III or subsequent volumes of the Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles de Renoir being prepared by Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville published by Bernheim-Jeune.
The theme of the female bather in an Arcadian landscape, as depicted in the present painting, Trois baigneuses, preoccupied Renoir during the latter half of his career. Indeed, at the turn of the century, Renoir commented that 'in literature as well as in painting, talent is shown only by the treatment of the feminine figures' (quoted in Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p.16). His interest in this classical theme crystallized during a four month Italian tour in the winter of 1881/1882. Seeing at first hand Raphael's frescoes in Rome and the Pompeian frescoes at the Museo Nazionale in Naples reinforced Renoir's ambition to dedicate himself to eternal beauty in the manner of his Antique and Renaissance forebears, representing a shift away from that most basic of Impressionist tenets, the capturing of a fleeting moment. Commenting on Renoir's link between his nudes and artistic tradition, House has written, 'The Impressionism of the mid-1870s...had fused figure with ground, treating it as if it was part of the landscape; in the Bather paintings, Renoir was deliberately rejecting this process, by reinstating the traditional humanistic view of the figure as the painter's prime object of attention, at the same time as he was re-establishing the links between his own art and the figurative traditional in European painting' (in J. Renoir, Renoir on Renoir: Interviews, Essays, and Remarks, New York, 1989, p. 259).
Renoir chose the theme of the bathers for his master work, the culmination of his extraordinary artistic career, Les Baigneuses (Musée d'Orsay RF 2795), presented by his sons to the French State. In this monumental painting, two large reclining nudes dominate the foreground while three bathers frolic in a pool in the background at the upper right. The harmonious interplay between these three bathers - one figure bending forward to support an immersed figure while another looks on - echoes the composition of the present painting. Here, the artist places the figures at the centre of the composition, giving them equal weight pictorially. Fully engaged in their activity, the bathers are completely unaware of the viewer's glance and Renoir masterfully captures their insouciance in the fluid brushstrokes which define their rounded forms. These forms are then repeated throughout the landscape in the curve of the narrow tree trunks and the soft undulations of the distant hills. Renoir renders the scene with an evocative palette of hot pinks, bright yellows, rich greens and blues, suffusing this idyll with a palpable Mediterranean warmth. This painting shows Renoir realize his stated ambition to emulate the ancients: 'What admirable creatures those Greeks were! They lived so happy a life that they imagined the gods came down to earth in order to find their paradise and true love. Yes, the earth was the paradise of the gods...And that is what I wish to paint' (quoted in W. Gaunt, Renoir, Oxford, 1982, no. 46).