Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
THE PERSONAL COLLECTION OF BARBARA LAMBRECHT, SOLD TO BENEFIT THE RUBENS PRIZE COLLECTION IN THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN SIEGENChristie’s is honoured to offer the following selection of works from the personal collection of the esteemed philanthropist and patron of the arts, Barbara Lambrecht. Assembled over the course of nearly four decades, Ms Lambrecht’s collection features works by a diverse range of artists, from early compositions by the great painters of Impressionism, to the refined techniques of the Pointillists, and the free, expressionist colours of the Fauves. In this way, the collection offers an intriguing insight into one of the most dynamic and exciting periods of the European artistic avant-garde. Ms Lambrecht’s collecting journey began in the 1970s, when an early interest in Impressionism encouraged her to purchase paintings by Eugène Boudin, Raoul Dufy and Berthe Morisot. From here, her treasured collection has grown and evolved to encompass works by some of the most influential artists of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, including Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee. This highly personal collection, shaped by Ms Lambrecht’s discerning vision and keen knowledge of art history, has filled the walls of the collector’s home for the past forty years. Considered together, the works reveal a series of intriguing connections to one another, their similarities and differences causing a dynamic dialogue to develop between each of the individual works in the collection. This is evident, for example, when Dufy’s portrayal of the northern coast of France is considered alongside Boudin’s painting of the same subject, or the contrasting painterly techniques of Monet’s loose, spontaneous compositions are observed beside Kees van Dongen’s highly saturated, impastoed areas of colour. One of the most striking features of the collection is the way in which the collection focuses on the pivotal periods in each artist’s career, often highlighting on a moment of transition as they begin to explore new, ground breaking techniques, subject matter or styles. Ms Lambrecht’s dedication to collecting has been paralleled by a prodigious journey in cultural philanthropy and patronage, as her passion for the arts has driven her to support a number of institutions in her native Siegen. Through her generous support, these bodies have become leaders in their respective fields, from the Philharmonic Orchestra Südwestfalen, to the city’s Apollo Theatre. Amongst her most remarkable and enduring charitable projects is her commitment to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Siegen, and her promotion of the Peter Paul Rubens Prize. Founded in 1955, the same year as the documenta in Kassel, this highly acclaimed international award is presented every five years to a contemporary artist living in Europe, to honour his or her lifetime achievements in art. Presented in remembrance of Peter Paul Rubens, who was born in Siegen, previous recipients include Giorgio Morandi, Francis Bacon, Antoni Tápies, Cy Twombly, Sigmar Polke, Lucian Freud, Maria Lassnig and Bridget Riley. To support the award, Ms Lambrecht founded the Rubens Prize Collection, acquiring comprehensive and exemplary groups of important paintings, sculptures and graphic pieces by each of the award’s former laureates, and then placing them on permanent loan to the Museum. Conceptually, the collection has been carefully curated so as to include works from each artist’s various creative phases, and continues to grow as it gathers examples from each new recipient of the prize. Creating an impressive survey of twentieth- and early twenty-first-century European art, from the quiet still-lifes of Morandi, and Riley’s iconic explorations of line and colour, to Bacon's emotionally charged figurative paintings and Maria Lassnig’s self-exploration of the human body, the Rubens Prize Collection offers visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Siegen an in-depth look into the work of the acclaimed artists honoured by the city. With the sale of this outstanding group of impressionist and early modernist works, Ms Lambrecht plans to ensure the continued growth and evolution of the Rubens Prize Collection, and to secure its future for the enjoyment of subsequent generations in Siegen and throughout Europe.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Femme au chapeau

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Femme au chapeau
signed 'Renoir.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 1/2 x 14 1/8 in. (47 x 36 cm.)
Painted circa 1881
Galerie Thannhauser, Lucerne (no. 677).
F.H. Hirschland, New York, by 1929.
Private collection, New York, by 1971.
Ingrid Luce, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1983.
J. Meier-Graefe, Renoir, Leipzig, 1929, no. 87, p. 439 (illustrated p. 108).
A. Vollard, Tableaux, pastels & dessins de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, vol. II, Paris, 1954, p. 55 (illustrated).
F. Daulte, Auguste Renoir: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, vol. I, Lausanne, 1971, no. 376 (illustrated).
G.P. Dauberville & M. Dauberville, Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. I, Paris, 2007, no. 354, p. 388 (illustrated).

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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.

‘In Renoir’s figure painting, portraiture deserves a place unto itself. For no other artist has looked so deeply into his sitter’s soul, nor captured its essence with such economy.’
(Georges Rivière, 1925, in C.B. Bailey, exh. cat., Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting, New York, p. 1)

Painted in 1881, Femme au chapeau is one of a number of portraits of fashionable young women by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. One of the most celebrated and prolific portraitists of Impressionism, Renoir painted the wealthy, social elite of Paris in commissioned paintings, as well as his family, friends and anonymous models whom he adorned in the latest Parisian fashions, as shown in the present work. Here, Renoir has revelled in the play of light and colour, depicting his youthful subject with softly feathered brushwork and gentle gradations of colour. Against the rapidly rendered, painterly background, the dark blue of the girl’s hat and dress contrasts with her fair complexion, making it seem all the more luminous. Her golden hair is just visible under the short brim of her hat, framing her heart shaped face, and highlighting the hint of blush on her cheeks and softly pouted lips as she gazes out to meet the viewer’s eyes. An image of enchanting intimacy and tender charm, this painting not only demonstrates Renoir’s innate skill at capturing the female form, but also encapsulates his novel form of impressionist portraiture.

The son of a tailor, throughout his life Renoir had a rapt fascination with fashion and was enchanted by the visual pageantry of costume displayed in modern Paris. He had a particular predilection for the decorative, often elaborate women’s hats that were the height of fashion at this time. Drawn to the compelling femininity that these accessories conveyed, he also relished the elaborate folds, colours, fabrics and textures of these extravagant headpieces. His interest in millinery is well documented. Suzanne Valadon, an artist who occasionally modelled for Renoir in the early 1880s, reminisced that, ‘Renoir particularly loved women’s hats. He put heaps of them on my head… He took me to the milliners’ shops; he never ceased buying lots of hats’ (S. Valadon, quoted in J. House & M. Lucy, Renoir in the Barnes Foundation, New Haven & London, 2012, p. 245). The artist not only bought hats for his models but also delighted in designing them himself, so as to enhance their artistic interest; later, in 1895, Berthe Morisot’s daughter, Julie Manet, recalled that Renoir showed her ‘a portrait of a model with a ravishing hat made of white muslin with a rose on it, which he himself had made’ (J. Manet, quoted in ibid., p. 245).

At the time that he painted Femme au chapeau, Renoir had become something of a chronicler of Parisian style. His great patron of the late 1870s and early 1880s, the publisher Georges Charpentier, had, in 1879, founded a magazine dedicated to fashion called La Vie Moderne. Renoir quickly offered his services to provide sketches and drawings of the latest Parisian fashions. He wrote excitedly that summer, ‘One can make arrangements with milliners and dressmakers. Hats one week, dresses the next. I’ll go to their premises to make the drawings from life from all angles’ (Renoir, quoted in C.B. Bailey, exh. cat., Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting, New York, 2012, p. 145). Depicting his youthful model in an elegant navy dress and matching hat, Femme au chapeau demonstrates this enthusiastic and ardent love of fashion. When, in the autumn of 1881, he travelled to Italy for the first time, the artist ruefully wrote from Venice that he was missing Paris ‘with its pretty women’s hats’ (Renoir, ibid., p. 145). Indeed, at the time he painted Femme au chapeau, Renoir was working on a number of other multi-figural paintings that also depict women sporting sophisticated promenading dresses and elegant hats. Both Les Parapluies (c. 1881-1885, National Gallery, London) and Deux jeunes filles en noir (1881, Pushkin Museum, Moscow) demonstrate Renoir’s love of this theme, the latter depicting a woman wearing a near identical costume and hat to the model in Femme au chapeau.

More than documenting the ever-changing trends in female style, however, Renoir’s portraits of young women allowed him to revel in his desire to convey the physical presence of the model herself. Often quoted as stating that he wanted to make the viewers of his paintings feel as if they could reach out and ‘stroke a breast or a back’ (Renoir, quoted in J. House, ‘Renoir’s Worlds’, in exh. cat., Renoir, London, Paris & Boston, 1985-6, p. 16), Renoir wanted the figures of his paintings to evoke a sense of touch; ‘What goes on inside my head doesn’t interest me’, he once exclaimed, ‘I want to touch…or at least to see!’ (Renoir, quoted in L. Gowing, ‘Renoir’s sentiment and sense’, in ibid., p. 32). Renoir achieved this through his modelling. In Femme au chapeau he has depicted the woman’s face with exquisite skill. While her shoulders and bust are rendered with loose, undefined strokes of colour, her physiognomy is depicted with the finest detail, her skin infused with a palpable plumpness and a radiant opalescence that perfectly conveys her youthful vitality and a captivating female allure. As Lawrence Gowing wrote about Renoir’s depiction of the female form, ‘If [Renoir’s] brush defines and records, it is for pleasure, and the shapes it makes, quivering in their pearly veil, discover satisfaction and completeness. One feels the surface of his paint itself as living skin: Renoir’s aesthetic was wholly physical and sensuous, and it was unclouded’ (ibid., p. 32).

Femme au chapeau dates from a moment of transition in Renoir’s career. In 1881, the pioneering impressionist dealer Paul Durand-Ruel began to buy Renoir’s work, an occurrence that enabled the artist to enjoy a certain level of financial security. As a result of this, the artist was able to travel abroad for the first time. In the spring of this year, he set off for North Africa, following in the footsteps of the much-admired romantic artist, Eugène Delacroix. Later, in the autumn, Renoir once more left his native France, this time making an artistic pilgrimage to Italy, where he fell under the spell of the Renaissance masters, particularly the work of Raphael. These trips irrevocably changed Renoir’s technique and his artistic approach; on his return to Paris at the beginning of 1882 he began to paint with a greater sense of firmness and stability, increasingly shunning the spontaneity and rapidity of execution that characterised his earlier impressionist works. Painted at the very beginning of this important stylistic shift, Femme au chapeau demonstrates this new direction. Unlike some of his earlier portraits, the model’s face is finely depicted and clearly demarcated from the painterly background, indicating the artist’s renewed interest in form and volume. This aesthetic would continue to occupy Renoir throughout the 1880s, as he moved away from Impressionism to develop his distinctive and unique pictorial idiom.

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