La place Pigalle (étude)
signed 'Renoir' (lower right)
oil on canvas
12 7/8 x 10 in. (32.7 x 25.5 cm.)
Painted in 1880
Victor Simon, Paris (1906).
Mme Barral, France.
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London (acquired from the above, February 1962).
Sir Antony Hornby, London (acquired from the above, April 1962).
Private collection, Hertfordshire (by descent from the above, after 1987); sale, Christie's, London, 26 June 1995, lot 3.
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty at the above sale.
D. Sutton, "An Unpublished Sketch by Renoir," Apollo, May 1963, pp. 392-394 (illustrated, p. 393).
F. Daulte, Auguste Renoir, Lausanne, 1971, vol. I, no. 325 (illustrated).
R. Brinsley Ford, The National Art Collections Fund Magazine, London, December 1984 (illustrated, p. 20; titled Sketch for the Place Clichy).
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2007, vol. I, p. 264, no. 221 (illustrated; titled La place Clichy (étude)).
London, The Tate Gallery, Private Views: Works from the Collection of Twenty Friends of the Tate Gallery, April-May 1963, no. 84.
Saint Louis Art Museum and San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade, February-September 2017, p. 166, no. 38 (illustrated in color).
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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Lot Essay

La place Pigalle (étude) directly relates to another painting from the same year, from the Butler Collection, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
Denys Sutton has written: "This picture is a charming record of a typical Parisian scene in which the spirit of a particular locality and of a moment in time is finely captured. It is a work which underlines the debt owed by the Impressionist School to instantaneous photography... This desire to emphasise a fragment from life gives the picture its sketchy character, as if it were painted en plein air in front of this scene. The disregard for finish in favour of the instantaneous underlines the difference then existing between an avant-garde painter and the run of the mill recorders of the Parisian scene, who sought fidelity to detail and the anecdotic. Such is the sketchiness of this picture that it comes of something of a surprise to find that it was preceded by [the present painting] which is no less attractive than the finished painting. In the sketch the composition is indicated in a rather more cursory fashion and yet, as in the final work, the emphasis is placed on the girl in the feather hat who holds the center of interest in the foreground of the composition. The artist's skill is evident from the way in which she is positioned; this brings out her individuality. She bounds into the picture so that we are made aware of her youth and the impression is thereby given that she is an especially charming creature who has captured the eye" (D. Sutton, op. cit., p. 393).
Renoir achieves the present work’s immediacy by virtue of its simplicity. The loosely painted figures on the street seem to have been captured in the glimpse of an eye. Their unsettled silhouettes contrast with the young girl at the lower right of the composition, and reinforce her impact. Her densely colored blue coat stands out against the persistent whites in the background, while her skin, hair and hat’s textural details differ from the painting’s otherwise broad treatment.
The display of Modern femininity through fashion, with a special appreciation for millinery, is common in Renoir’s oeuvre. Born of modest means to a tailor and a dressmaker, Renoir was thus sensitive to Parisian style, reproducing it as it evolved throughout his career. His particular attention to women’s hats is well-documented. In a letter dated 1880 to an unidentified model, Renoir wrote, "Come to Chatou tomorrow with a pretty summer hat. Do you still have that big hat that you look so nice in? If so, I'd like that, the gray one, the one you wore in Argenteuil" (quoted in G. Adriani, Renoir, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen, 1996, p. 204). In fact, Renoir was so fond of this motif that he kept including it in his portraits even when parisiennes were no longer wearing them. Jeanne Baudot, Renoir's informal pupil, recalled that in the late 1890s Paul Durand-Ruel tried to persuade him to begin depicting his sitters bare-headed, since the fashion for hats was waning, but the painter rejected the dealer's advice, citing his taste for "beautiful fabrics, shimmering silks, sparkling diamonds—though the thought of adorning myself with them is horrifying! So I am grateful to others when they do so—provided I am permitted to paint them" (quoted in ibid.).

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