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

Paysage avec figures

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Paysage avec figures
signed 'Renoir.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 ¼ x 21 ¾ in. (46.3 x 55.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1890
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 21 November 1893).
Charles H. Tweed, New York (acquired from the above, 31 May 1905).
Mrs. Charles Tweed, New York (by descent from the above).
Mrs. B.D. Chambers, Westover Rectory, Toxbury, Virginia (by descent from the above by 1937).
Richard Palmer Kaleioku Smart, Honolulu.
Hirschl & Adler Gallery, New York (acquired from the above, 1983).
Private collection (acquired from the above, 1984); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 3 May 2005, lot 55.
Acquired by the present owner, 2009.
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2009, vol. II, p. 158, no. 949 (illustrated, p. 159).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Monet, Pissarro, Renoir et Sisley, April 1899, p. 12, no. 100 (titled Paysage avec Figures and dated 1895).
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1917-1928 (on extended loan).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

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.

The late 1880s and early 1890s represent a watershed period in Renoir’s career. In the opening weeks of 1887, the artist put the finishing touches on Les grandes baigneuses, a veritable manifesto of the linear, Ingresque style that he had begun to develop three years earlier. He had high hopes for the monumental painting of five frolicking nymphs, which he had meticulously planned in some twenty preliminary studies. His goal, he told his friend and patron Paul Bérard, was to “beat Raphael” (quoted in B.E. White, Renoir: His Life, Art, and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 166). When the painting was exhibited in May at the Galerie Georges Petit, however, critical response was emphatically negative. Only Octave Mirbeau remained steadfast in his support: “The composition is exquisite,” he proclaimed, “despite or rather because of the precise drawing à la Ingres that the artist audaciously sought. Everything betrays accomplished research and the brilliant effort to create something new” (quoted in A. Distel, Renoir, New York, 2010, p. 249).
After brooding throughout the fall over his discouraging reception at Petit, Renoir rebounded with vigor in early 1888. “I’m very pleased with myself,” he wrote to Bérard in February. “I have some interesting things started and I’m determined to finish them” (quoted in B.E. White, op. cit., 1984, p. 178). He began to travel again widely, seeking inspiration in the richly colored art of Titian, Rubens, and the French Rococo, and he soon renounced the cool tones, dry surface, and hard-edged contours of Les grandes baigneuses. “I have taken up again, never to abandon it, my old style, soft and light of touch,” he explained to the dealer Durand-Ruel. “It’s nothing new, but rather a follow-up to the paintings of the eighteenth century. This is to give you some idea of my new and final manner of painting (like Fragonard, but not so good). Those fellows who give the impression of not painting nature knew more about it than we do” (quoted in J. House, Renoir in the Barnes Foundation, New Haven, 2012, p. 121).
Renoir’s new approach was an immediate success, ushering in a decade of mounting prosperity and long-awaited fame for the artist, who was then nearing fifty. Durand-Ruel began to buy eagerly from Renoir once more, confident in his ability to find buyers. Secure at last that he could support a family, Renoir finally married Aline Charigot, his long-time companion and mother of his young son Pierre, in April 1890. “I’m in demand again on the market and I worked a lot in the spring,” the artist wrote to Bérard a few weeks later. “If nothing happens to disturb my work, it will go like clockwork” (quoted in G. Adriani, Renoir, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Tübingen, 1996, p. 50). In 1892, the French State purchased Renoir’s Jeunes filles au piano for the Musée Luxembourg, a mark of official recognition that the artist himself viewed as one of his crowning achievements (Dauberville, no. 993; Musée d’Orsay, Paris). Later the same year, Durand-Ruel mounted a large retrospective of Renoir’s work that was exceptionally well-received–“the beginning of a triumph,” the critic Arsène Alexandre proclaimed (quoted in Renoir in the Twentieth Century, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009, p. 371).
The linchpin of Renoir’s work during this period was a long sequence of paintings depicting the carefree recreations of pretty bourgeois girls and young women, informally dressed in summer frocks and beribboned sunhats. “It was with pictures such as these, it seems, that the artist found a real market in the 1890s,” John House has noted (Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 251). The rosy-cheeked, snub-nosed models are shown lounging or strolling in the countryside, gathering fruit or flowers, and picnicking beneath trees; they talk, draw, or read against a curtain of sun-dappled greenery. Sometimes, Renoir painted the models at close range, focusing on their concentrated activity and harmonious interrelationship; elsewhere, as in the present Paysage, the figures are viewed at a distance, integrated into the generalized, sunlit landscape. In contrast to Renoir’s outdoor subjects from the 1870s and early 1880s, which center on explicitly modern recreations in and around Paris, these later pictures have the effect of timeless idylls, reminiscent of the fêtes champêtres of Fragonard and Watteau.
Renoir’s initial inspiration for the present scene likely came during his extensive peregrinations throughout France in the late 1880s and early 1890s. He spent several lengthy periods in Aline’s rural hometown of Essoyes, on the border of Champagne and Bourgogne; he frequently visited Caillebotte and Morisot in the Seine valley (at Petit Gennevilliers and Mézy respectively) and Cézanne in Provence; he vacationed with his family on the Normandy coast, in the Breton countryside, and on the Côte d’Azur. During these travels, he focused almost exclusively on painting landscapes, which he then worked up back in his Paris studio. “Out of doors, one can never be certain about what one has done,” Renoir explained, recalling advice that Corot had given him. “One should always go back to the studio” (quoted in J. House, op. cit., 2012, p. 139). Although the cloud-flecked skies and lush green hues of the present painting suggest a northern locale, Renoir has absorbed the various elements of the observed landscape into a constantly shifting alternation between warm and cool colors, lighter and darker tones. “The viewer has no direct access to the figures’ experience, but looks in from outside on to their self-contained world,” House has written. “The whole picture presents the viewer with a vision of harmony and integration” (op. cit., 1985, pp. 256-257).
Renoir sold the present Paysage to Durand-Ruel in November 1893. Six years later, the dealer featured the canvas in a major show of paintings by Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, and Sisley, the first important joint exhibition of their work in Paris since 1882. The show represented “the apotheosis of Impressionism,” Signac wrote enthusiastically in his journal. “For Renoir this is the final triumph: the variety of his investigations, the diversity of his compositions, unified by genius,” he continued. “In this room you cannot help but think of Veronese. And you’re amazed at what could formerly have seemed shocking in his pictures. I have the impression of a room at the Louvre” (quoted in A. Distel, op. cit., 2010, p. 316). In 1905, this canvas passed from Durand-Ruel to Charles Harrison Tweed, a prominent New York railroad lawyer and important collector of Impressionism at the turn of the century.
Fig. A: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Picnic (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe), circa 1893. Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. BARCODE: nyrphxtj
Fig. B: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La cuillette de fleurs (Dans la prairie), circa 1890. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. BARCODE: nyrphxtg
Fig. C: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La marchande de pommes, circa 1890. Cleveland Museum of Art. BARCODE: nyrphxth
Fig. D: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bois de la Chaise, Noirmoutier, 1892. Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. BARCODE: nyrphxti

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