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    Sale 1994

    Impressionist And Modern Art Evening Sale

    6 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 47

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

    Gondola, Venise

    Price Realised  


    Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
    Gondola, Venise
    signed 'Renoir' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    21½ x 26 in. (54.6 x 66 cm.)
    Painted in 1881

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    *This lot may be exempt from sales tax as set forth in the Sales Tax Notice in the back of the catalogue.

    This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue critique of Pierre-Auguste Renoir being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute, as established from the archives of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.

    We are grateful to Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville for confirming that this painting is included in their Bernheim-Jeune archives as an authentic work.

    Renoir painted Gondola, Venise during his eye-opening tour of Italy in the fall of 1881. This trip, like his travels in Algeria the previous spring, was a direct result of the newfound financial security that the artist had gained through portrait commissions and regular purchases by the dealer Durand-Ruel. "Algeria seems largely to have conformed to [Renoir's] expectations," states the scholar John House, "as he harnessed his techniques of colored sketching to the depiction of its lavish foliage and colorful local types. However, he came in retrospect to see the Italian trip as the watershed of his career" (Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 220). This was largely due to the inspiration that Renoir gathered from Italian old masters, including Veronese, Tiepolo, and Raphael, as well as the Pompeian frescoes that the painter saw in Naples. Barbara Ehrlich White has written, "These travels were not only an important and urgent part of his artistic education, they were also a rite of passage into the bourgeoisie of which success as an artist would make him a member. Many of Renoir's closest friends were members of the upper class. Renoir, too, wanted to be a tourist, now that he could afford it" (Renoir: His Life, Art, and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 105). "I have contracted the fever of desire to see the paintings of Raphael," he wrote to his patron Charpentier at the beginning of his journey, "And so I have begun to devour my Italy" (quoted in G. Adriani, Renoir, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Tübingen, 1996, p. 43).

    Late in life, Renoir recalled the present painting among his Venetian canvases while describing his tour of Italy to the dealer Ambroise Vollard. "I went first to Venice," stated Renoir, "where I painted several nudes, a sketch of the Grand Canal, a gondola, the Doge's Palace and the Piazza San Marco" (quoted in A. Vollard, Renoir: An Intimate Record, 1934, p. 101). The present work depicts a dark, covered gondola with two female passengers being steered along the lagoon by a gondolier; the view, which Renoir painted from the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, stretches across the water to the Dogana, or customs house. The painter executed numerous open-air paintings of famous sites during this trip and returned to Paris with canvases that he completed for immediate sale, such as the present work, and sketch-like versions such as Gondole à Venise, 1881 (fig. 1) which depicts a similar scene on a foggy afternoon. Durand-Ruel purchased many of Renoir's brighter and more tightly-worked Venetian paintings, and displayed Canale Grande (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and The Doge's Palace (fig. 2) at the seventh Impressionist exhibition in 1882. Renoir also captured his immediate impressions of Venetian buildings, people, and landscapes in a five-by-eight-inch sketchbook. Addressing the effect of this practice on the present work, Richard Shone has written, "The rapidity of Renoir's attack on the view can be observed in the varied, even turbulent brushwork, both broadly and thinly applied, and perhaps, too, in the unresolved suggestion of the weight of the passing gondola on the water. Nevertheless, Gondola, Venise, achieves a spirited 'impression' akin to Manet's Venetian paintings of 1874" (op. cit., pp. 50-51; fig. 3). Renoir also executed portraits of Venetian women, but he found the process somewhat challenging. The painter remarked in a letter to the collector Charles Deudon, "Following a girl carrying water, beautiful as a Madonna. My gondolier tells me he knows her, I hug him for joy. Once on the chair, a three-quarter pose, she was disgusting. To get someone to pose, you have to be very good friends and above all speak the language" (quoted in B.E. White, op. cit., p. 112).

    Renoir's frustration with his Impressionist techniques was foremost in his mind while in Venice, and the painter wrote to his friend and patron Charles Bérard, "I love the sun and the reflections in the water, and I would travel round the world to paint them. Yet when I actually take up my brush to do so, I realize how powerless I am. Ah, Paris, with its pretty women's hats, with its life, whose sun makes it possible to paint it, why did I ever leave you?" (quoted in G. Adriani, op. cit., pp. 217-218). The painter had commenced his search for a more defined treatment of forms before he left for Venice; he knowingly, if somewhat reluctantly, followed Ingres's example by studying the art of the Classical world and the Renaissance masters in Italy. Renoir had admired Ingres's work in the Louvre as early as 1875, and took note of Bouguereau's success at the Salon of 1879 with Birth of Venus, which borrows from Ingres's La Source and Raphael's Birth of Galatea. Renoir wrote to Durand-Ruel from Rome, "I went to see the Raphaels. They are very beautiful and I should have seen them earlier. They are full of knowledge and wisdom. But I prefer Ingres in oil painting" (quoted in ibid., p. 115).

    Renoir's experiences in Italy were an important first step in his successful reconciliation of direct observation from nature and timeless, permanent forms. In 1893, after a decade of formal experimentation, Renoir's Venetian motifs appeared in a large solo exhibition that Durand-Ruel mounted in his gallery. The catalogue to this show featured a foreword by the prominent critic and collector, Arsène Alexandre, and his words live as a testament to the lasting freshness of these works. "As for [Renoir's] drawing," wrote Alexandre, "it is the drawing of a master painter who has kept, throughout the disappointments of life and the anxieties of art, all the candor and lively impressions of a twenty-year-old" (quoted in B.E. White, op. cit., p. 193). The young painter Maurice Denis echoed Alexandre's praise for Renoir's balance of open-air painting and studio work, and gave the following review: "Idealistic? Naturalistic? As you like. He has been able to limit himself to conveying his own emotions, all of nature and all of his dream by his own methods: with the joys of his eyes he has composed marvelous bouquets of women and flowers. And since his heart is big and his will upright, he has only done very beautiful things" (quoted in ibid.).

    (fig. 1) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gondole à Venise, 1881. Private collection. BARCODE 20627287
    (fig. 2) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Doge's Palace, 1881. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass. BARCODE 20627270
    (fig. 3) Edouard Manet, Venice--The Grand Canal, 1874. Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont. BARCODE 20627195

    Special Notice

    No sales tax is due on the purchase price of this lot if it is picked up or delivered in the State of New York.


    Max Silberberg, Breslau (Wroclaw); sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 9 June 1932, lot 27.
    Dr. Hirschmann, Amsterdam (acquired at the above sale).
    Siegfried Kramarsky, Amsterdam and New York (by 1938).
    Werner H. Kramarsky, New York (by descent from the above, by 1958).
    Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York (acquired from the above).
    Mr. and Mrs. Philip Levin, New York (acquired from the above, 19 December 1970).
    Gift from the above to the present owner, 2001.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the correct title for this work is:
    Le Grand Canal, Venise (gondole)

    Please note the additional literature reference:
    G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2007, p. 216, no. 160 (illustrated).

    Please note this work has been requested for The Light of Venice exhibition at The Foundation Beyer, Riehen/Basel, from September 28, 2008 to January 25, 2009.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property formerly in the Collection of Janice Levin, Sold to benefit the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation


    T. Duret, Histoire des peintres impressionnistes, Paris, 1906, p. 102 (illustrated).
    A. Vollard, Tableaux, pastels, et dessins de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1918, vol. 1, p. 13, no. 51 (illustrated).
    A. Vollard, La Vie et l'oeuvre de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1919, p. 128 (illustrated).
    J. Meier-Graefe, Renoir, Leipzig, 1929, p. 155, no. 140 (illustrated).
    T. Duret, Renoir, Paris, 1924, no. 16 (titled Le Grand Canal, Venise; illustrated).
    K. Scheffler, "Die Sammlung Max Silberberg", in Kunst und Künstler, no. 30, October-December 1931, p. 12 (illustrated).
    U. Thieme and F. Becker, eds., Allgemeines Lexicon der Bildenden Künstler, Leipzig, 1934, vol. 28, p. 170.
    A. C. Barnes and V. de Mazia, The Art of Renoir, New York, 1935, pp. 77-79, no. 125.
    R. H. Wilenski, Modern French Painters, New York, 1940, p. 62.
    M. Drucker, Renoir, Paris, 1944, no. 73.
    H. Perruchot, La Vie de Renoir, Paris, 1964, p. 174.
    B. F. Schneider, Renoir, New York, 1967, p. 28.
    B. E. White, "Renoir's Trip to Italy," in The Art Bulletin, no. 4, December 1969, pp. 343-345, no. 3.
    F. Fosca, Renoir, New York, 1970, p. 161 (illustrated in color).
    J. Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1973, p. 460 (illustrated).
    D. Rouart, Renoir, Geneva, 1985, p. 67 (illustrated).


    Liège, Salon International, 1909.
    Paris, Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Exposition d'oeuvres de grands maîtres du XIXème siècle, May-June 1922, no. 77.
    Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Exposition Renoir, 1841-1919, 1933, p. 30, no. 65 (illustrated).
    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Honderd Jaar Fransche Kunst, July-September 1938, p. 116, no. 215.
    New York, Duveen Galleries, Renoir. Centennial Loan Exhibition, 1841-1941. For the Benefit of the French Relief Committee, November-December 1941, pp. 142-1443, no. 39 (illustrated, p. 61).
    New York, Wildenstein and Co., Ltd., A Loan Exhibition of Renoir for the Benefit of the New York Infirmary, March-April 1950, p. 41, no. 34 (illustrated, p. 53).
    New York, Wildenstein and Co., Ltd., Renoir. Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the Citizens' Committee for the Children of New York City, Inc., April-May 1958, p. 46, no. 32 (illustrated).
    New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, July-September 1958, p. 10, no. 116.
    New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, July-September 1960, p. 9, no. 101.
    New York, Wildenstein and Co., Ltd., Renoir. A Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the American Association of Museums, March-May 1969, no. 42 (illustrated).
    New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan 1971. Paintings from New York Collections: Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Philip J. Levin, July-September 1971, p. 1, no. 4.
    New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, A Very Private Collection: Janice H. Levin's Impressionist Pictures, November 2002-February 2003, p. 48, no. 12 (illustrated in color).
    The Birmingham Museum of Art and elsewhere, An Impressionist Eye: Painting and Sculpture from the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, February 2004-January 2005.
    London, The National Gallery; Ottawa, The National Gallery of Canada and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Renoir Landscapes: 1865-1883, February 2007-January 2008.