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Paysage de Provence

Paysage de Provence
oil on canvas
21.7 x 33.2 cm. (8 1⁄2 x 13 in.)
Painted in 1917
The artist's estate
O'Hana Gallery, London, acquired from the above; sale, Christie's London, 28 November 1972, lot 9
Private collection, Tokyo, acquired at the above sale
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 8 May 2002, Lot 204
Private collection, acquired at the above sale

This work will be included in the forthcoming online Catalogue raisonné de l’Œuvre of Pierre-Auguste Renoir currently being prepared by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute.
Bernheim-Jeune, ed., L'Atelier de Renoir, Paris, 1931, vol. II, no. 639 (illustrated, pl. 200).
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. V, 1911 - 1919 & 1er Supplément, Paris, 2014, no. 3820, p. 122 (illustrated)

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Lot Essay

"The olive tree, what a brute! If you realise how much trouble it has caused me. A tree full of colors. Not great at all. Its little leaves, how they've made me sweat! A gust of wind, and my tree's tonality changes. The color isn't on the leaves, but in the spaces between them. I know that I can't paint nature, but I enjoy struggling with it. A painter can't be great if he doesn't understand landscape” (quoted in J. House, Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 277).

With luxuriant textures and swathes of colour, with painterly strokes layered and scintillating off one another, Renoir’s Paysage de Provence evokes a full and lush landscape bathed in summery Mediterranean light, the blue sky enlivening the landscape with joyous warmth. Painted in the final years of Renoir’s illustrious career, this work aptly demonstrates his magnificent mature handling of the brush, immensely articulate and accurate yet free and expressive, superbly capturing his much-loved surroundings in the South of France. In a review of a Durand-Ruel exhibition J.F Schnerb had referred to Renoir's late landscapes as follows: "M. Renoir more and more loves his canvas being full and sonorous… Every corner in his landscapes offers a relationship of colours and values chosen with a view of embellishment of the surface. His recent studies of the Provenҫale landscape have led him to transpose the themes furnished by nature into the most sonorous colour range and to assemble the largest possible number of elements in the canvas, like a musician who ceaselessly adds new elements to the orchestra". (quoted in J. House, Renoir, New York, 1985, pp. 276-77).

Renoir’s influence as master of sensuality and beauty would extend to Henri Matisse who settled in the South of France the very same year Paysage de Provence was painted. On the last day of 1917, a mutual friend arranged for Matisse to visit Pierre-Auguste Renoir at his home in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Although Renoir had been suffering from crippling arthritis for many years, he still painted every day except Sunday. The pair became close friends and Matisse admired the old painter’s fortitude and unshakable dedication to his art, remembering the famous words he spoke when questioned upon it in the face of his challenges: “The pain passes, Matisse, but the beauty remains” (quoted in H. Spurling, Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, vol. II, New York, 2005, p. 217). The peaceful abundance of Paysage de Provence as such references Renoir’s lifetime pursuit of beauty, constantly seeking subjects to reflect this passion in his nudes, his landscapes and his flowers, as he famously said, “For me, a painting should be something pleasant, joyous and pretty, yes pretty! There are enough unpleasant things in life for one not to want to make any more of them” (quoted in M. Lucy & J. House, Renoir in the Barnes Collection, New Haven & London, 2012, p. 16).

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