Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
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Property from the Hermann and Else Schnabel Collection
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Jeune femme allaitant son enfant–Madame Renoir et son fils Pierre

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Jeune femme allaitant son enfant–Madame Renoir et son fils Pierre
signed and dated 'Renoir. 86.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
28 ¾ x 21 3/8 in. (73.1 x 54.2 cm.)
Painted in 1886.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 22 June 1892).
Henry Sayles, Boston (acquired from the above, 25 May 1896); Estate sale, American Art Association, New York, 14 January 1920, lot 51.
Scott and Fowles, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Mr. and Mrs. Hunt Henderson, New Orleans (1920, and by descent); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 10 May 1988, lot 23.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owners.
(possibly) O. Mirbeau, "Impressions d'art" in Le Gaulois, 16 June 1886, no. 1388 (titled Femme à l'enfant).
T. Natanson, "Renoir" in La revue blanche, 15 June 1896, vol. X, no. 73, p. 549 (titled Maman au bébé et au chat).
A. Vollard, Tableaux, pastels et dessins de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1918, vol. I, p. 85, no. 338 (illustrated; titled Mère et enfant).
F. Fosca, Renoir, Paris, 1923 (illustrated, pl. 20).
G. Coquiot, Renoir, Paris, 1925, p. 228.
C. Roger-Marx, Renoir, Paris, 1933, p. 109 (illustrated).
A.C. Barnes and V. de Mazia, The Art of Renoir, New York, 1935, p. 457, no. 159 (titled Mother, Child and Cat).
W. Uhde, Les Impressionnistes, Paris, 1937, p. 78 (illustrated; titled Mère et enfant (Madame Renoir, allaitant Pierre)).
R.H. Wilensky, Modern French Painters, New York, 1940, p. 117.
C. Terrasse, Cinquante portraits de Renoir, Paris, 1941 (illustrated, pl. 27; titled Jeune mère allaitant son enfant).
M. Laporte, "The Classic Art of Renoir" in Gazette des beaux-arts, March 1948, vol. XXXV, p. 184 (illustrated, p. 183, fig. 5; titled Mother and Child).
F. Daulte, "Renoir, son oeuvre regardé sous l'angle d'un album de famille" in Connaissance des Arts, November 1964, p. 76 (illustrated, pl. 9; with incorrect cataloguing).
F. Daulte, Auguste Renoir: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Lausanne, 1971, vol. I, no. 497 (illustrated).
F. Daulte, Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1972, p. 52 (series discussed).
B.E. White, Renoir: His Life, Art and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 161 (illustrated in color; titled Nursing, Aline and Her Son Pierre).
D. Rouart, Renoir, Paris, 1985, p. 77 (illustrated).
A. Dumas and J. Collins, Renoir's Women, exh. cat., Columbus Museum of Art, 2005, p. 59 (series discussed).
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2009, vol. II, pp. 177-178, no. 970 (illustrated, p. 178; titled L'Enfant au sein (dit Maternité)).
G. Néret, Renoir: Painter of Happiness, Cologne, 2009, p. 375 (illustrated in color, p. 374; titled MaternityBaby at the Breast (Aline and her Son Pierre)).
B.E. White, Renoir: An Intimate Biography, New York, 2017, p. 96 (illustrated in color; titled Nursing (Aline and her Son, Pierre)).
(possibly) Paris, Galeries Georges Petit, 5e Exposition internationale de peinture et de sculpture, June-July 1886, no. 126.
(possibly) Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition A. Renoir, May 1892, p. 44, no. 75 (titled L'enfant qui tette).
(possibly) Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition Renoir, May-June 1896, no. 17 or 29 (titled Femme et enfant).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Renoir: A Special Exhibition of his Paintings, May-September 1937, no. 45 (illustrated; titled Mme Renoir Nursing Pierre).
New York, Duveen Galleries, Renoir: Centennial Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the Free French Relief Committee, November-December 1941, pp. 152-153, no. 57 (illustrated, p. 79; titled Madame Renoir et Pierre).
New Orleans, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, Early Masters of Modern Art: A Loan Collection Exhibited Anonymously, November-December 1959, no. 38 (illustrated; titled Madame Renoir and her Son Pierre).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Early Masters of Modern Art: A Celebrated New Orleans Collection, May-June 1961, no. 38 (illustrated).
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Renoir, May 1985-January 1986, p. 125, no. 78 and no. 79 respectively (illustrated in color; titled The Child at the Breast).
St. Petersburg, Florida, Museum of Fine Arts (on extended loan, October 1970-February 1988).
Kunsthalle Tübingen, Renoir, January-May 1996, pp. 250-253, no. 78 (illustrated in color, p. 251; titled Maternité. Femme allaitant son enfant).
Further details
This work will be included in the forthcoming Pierre-Auguste Renoir Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

This triumphant portrayal of universal motherhood is the culminating canvas in a sequence of paintings and drawings that Pierre-Auguste Renoir created in 1885-1886, which depict Aline Charigot, his longtime companion and future wife, nursing their infant son Pierre. The baby—the couple’s first—was born on 21 March 1885; the family spent that summer at La Roche-Guyon and the autumn at Aline’s hometown of Essoyes in southern Champagne. The first and most loosely worked oil version of the maternity scene is dated ‘1885’ (Dauberville, no. 969; Musée d’Orsay, Paris), as is a large sanguine study; Renoir very likely began these from life at Essoyes, when Pierre was around six months old. In Paris during the winter of 1885-1886, he painted two highly finished, studio versions of the composition, maintaining the figural poses unchanged. One of these is undated (Dauberville, no. 971), while the present canvas bears the date ‘1886’ and is possibly the version that Renoir exhibited at Galeries Georges Petit in June of that year.
In the preliminary oil version of the composition, Renoir depicted Aline—a country girl by birth and inclination—seated on logs in front of a farmhouse with rough-hewn stones for the doorstop and windowsill. In the studio paintings, by contrast, he created a more elevated and generalized context for the nursing duo, perhaps with Parisian audiences in mind. Here, Aline sits in a wicker chair against a background of greenery, her wooden clogs replaced with laced shoes. In January 1886, Renoir showed the paintings to Berthe Morisot in his studio—without letting on that they portrayed his own family, who remained a secret from his high-born, city friends. “Visit to Renoir,” Morisot recorded in her journal. “On an easel, a drawing in red pencil and in chalk of a young mother nursing her child; charming in its grace and subtlety. Since I admired it, he showed me a series of them with the same model. He is a first-class draftsman. I don’t think that one can go further in the rendering of form” (quoted in B.E. White, op. cit., 1984, p. 160).
Renoir painted this magisterial sequence during a vital period of experimentation and resolution, in which he wholly re-ordered his objectives as a painter. Early in the decade, increasingly dissatisfied with the Impressionist goal of capturing ephemeral and contingent effects, he began to seek new ideas in the art of the past, studying the work of Ingres and immersing himself in Cennino Cennini’s Il Libro dellArte, a 15th century Florentine manual of painting technique. In the winter of 1881-1882, he undertook a three-month voyage to Italy, where he admired “the grandeur and simplicity of the ancient painters” and became ever more convinced that he was on the right course (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1985, p. 220). From 1884 to 1887, he traveled very little, exhibited only occasionally, and accepted few portrait commissions, focusing instead on consolidating a timeless, classicizing vision for his art, based on the preeminence of the human form.
This new approach is fully manifest in Renoir’s paintings of Aline nursing baby Pierre. Although the closely observed gesture of the infant grasping his foot creates an effect of lively immediacy, the stable pyramidal structure of the figural pair is indebted to Renaissance images of the Madonna and Child that Renoir had admired in Italy. “The most free, the most solid, the most marvelously simple and alive painting that one could imagine,” he recalled of Raphael’s Madonna della Sedia. “The arms and legs have real flesh, and what a touching expression of maternal tenderness” (quoted in ibid., p. 249). “On Renoir’s Italian trip,” wrote the artist’s second son Jean, born in 1894, “Raphael’s paintings came to represent for him the image of motherhood: in Italy, he remembered, ‘every woman nursing a child is a Virgin by Raphael’” (Renoir, My Father, New York, 1958, p. 225).
The tenderly interlocking forms of the maternal duo here stand out decisively against the surrounding landscape, a sea-change from the Impressionist fusion of figure and ground that characterized Renoir’s work during the 1870s. The figural group in Jeune femme allaitant son enfantMadame Renoir et son fils Pierre is opaquely painted and clearly defined, with discrete fields of color—russet for Aline’s jacket, blue for her skirt, white for the baby’s gown—and a precision of contour that evokes Ingres. The scenery, by contrast, is more freely and thinly brushed, allowing the white ground to lend its luminosity to the variegated hues of grass and trees. In addition to establishing the primacy of the figures, this intentional distinction in levels of finish serves to elevate the scene above the everyday, calling attention to the essential artfulness of the ensemble.
In June 1886, Renoir showed a work titled Maternité, possibly the present canvas, at the 5e Exposition internationale de peinture et de sculpture at Galeries Georges Petit, revealing publicly for the first time the results of the preceding two years of deliberation and experimentation. Although Renoir’s new manner generated some criticism in the press, it also attracted ardent defenders. “Woman with Child has the charm of the primitive, the clarity of the Japanese, and the mastery of Ingres,” declared Octave Mirbeau on the front page of Le Gaulois. “I have just read your courageous article,” Renoir wrote to Mirbeau in response. “I am very proud and grateful to you for giving me new courage to prove to everyone that you are right at the next exhibition” (quoted in G. Adriani, Renoir, Tübingen, 1996, p. 252). The following May at Galeries Georges Petit, Renoir exhibited Les grandes baigneuses, a veritable manifesto of the classicizing, crisply linear style that he had cultivated since mid-decade, which brought this phase of his work to its pinnacle (Dauberville, no. 1292; Philadelphia Museum of Art).
The present Jeune femme allaitant son enfantMadame Renoir et son fils Pierre was the first of the three oil versions of the composition to find a buyer. Durand-Ruel purchased the canvas from Renoir in 1892 and sold it in 1896 to the Boston collector Henry Sayles; it subsequently belonged to the New Orleans sugar magnate Hunt Henderson, the foremost collector of modern French painting in the American South during the early 20th century. Following Aline’s death in 1915, Renoir used the figural group in Maternité as the basis for a sculptural edition in bronze, a loving homage to his lifelong companion and the mother of his three sons.

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