Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Femme lisant dans une clairière (Paysage, petite femme en rose au premier plan)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Femme lisant dans une clairière (Paysage, petite femme en rose au premier plan)
signed 'Renoir.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
13 x 16¼ in. (33 x 41.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1895
Ambroise Vollard, Paris.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the above, July 1936).
Mme Lipmann, Paris.
C.W. Boise, Kent; Estate sale, Sotheby & Co., London, 24 April 1968, lot 74.
H. Kendy (acquired at the above sale).
Selected Artists Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
A. Vollard, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Tableaux, pastels et dessins, Paris, 1918, p. 40 (illustrated).
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2010, vol. III, p. 92, no. 1840 (illustrated, p. 93).

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Stefany Sekara Morris
Stefany Sekara Morris

Lot Essay

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

Femme lisant dans une clairière demonstrates Renoir's successful reconciliation of plein-air painting and artistic tradition in the landscapes and informal outdoor scenes that he executed during the early 1890s. In the present work, Renoir integrates the figures into their surroundings with his soft palette and feathery touches of paint, which heighten the mood of harmony and contented relaxation. This unified surface of pigment and brushwork presages the fusion of figure and background that Renoir achieved in his monumental figures and nudes of the early 1900s.

This pastoral scene is also reminiscent of the fêtes galantes of French eighteenth-century painting, even if it lacks the references to love and courtship in works such as Antoine Watteau's Plaisirs d'amour (1719). Renoir's admiration for painters such as Watteau, and Jean-Honoré Fragonard was at its height in the early 1890s, and he defined his "light approach to painting" in this period as "a sequel to the paintings of the eighteenth century" (quoted in G. Adriani, Renoir, Cologne, 1999, p. 48). Renoir also looked to landscapes by Camille Corot such as La forêt de Fontainebleau (fig. 1) as a model for his own outdoor scenes, praising the elder painter for his truthful vision and insistence on working indoors. Renoir remarked to the critic Ambroise Vollard, "I had the good fortune to meet Corot personally; I told him how hard it is for me to work outdoors. 'Yes,' he answered, 'because you never know exactly what you've done when you're outdoors. You must always reexamine things in the studio.' Yet Corot painted nature more realistically than any 'Impressionist' ever managed to do! So let us stop talking about the 'discoveries' of the Impressionists; the old masters were surely aware of these things as well, and if they put them to one side, then it was because all of the great artists have managed without effect. By simplifying nature, they made it all the greater" (quoted in ibid., p. 45).

John House has written, "His espousal of the French eighteenth century and of Corot was central to his art and to the public image he projected. Watteau and Fragonard became especially important for him in the late 1880s, as he worked his way out of the harshness of contour and rigidity of design. In 1888 he cited Fragonard to explain his efforts to soften and variegate his technique; his brushwork of the 1890s retains Fragonard's imprint, in its increasingly rhythmic, cursive movements, which model form and create decorative pattern in the same gesture. At the same time many of his outdoor subjects look to Fragonard or to Watteau's fêtes galantes, in the ways in which outdoor figures and their surroundings are woven together by composition and touch, and figures in contemporary dress are made more timeless by their gestures and setting" (Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 250).

(fig. 1) Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, La Forêt de Fontainebleau, 1846. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts.

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