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.
Unlike his contemporaries Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille, Renoir showed little interest in painting still-lifes at the beginning of his career. From the early 1880s onwards, however, still-life painting began to occupy an increasing position of importance in his output. Among the most “academic” of the Impressionists--along with Paul Cézanne, another devotee of the still-life motif—Renoir is frequently remembered for his depictions of the female figure. Although he exhorted Edouard Manet's niece Julie to paint still-lifes "in order to teach yourself to paint quickly" (quoted in J. Manet, Journal, 1893-1899, Paris, n.d., p. 190), the numerous works, often elaborate and ambitious, which Renoir executed in this genre over the course of his career attest to his sustained interest in still-life as an end in itself. It was in these compositions that he pursued some of his most probing investigations of the effects of light and color on objects and surfaces. Renoir told his biographer and fellow artist, Albert André, that it was in his small scale still-lifes such as the present work that "he put the whole of himself, that he took every risk" (A. André, Renoir, Paris, 1928, p. 49).
As with Cézanne, the masters of French eighteenth century painting exerted great influence on Renoir. While his figurative works looked towards Antoine Watteau and François Boucher, his still-lifes found their inspiration in Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin's unique vision. Discussing Renoir's pictorial dialogue with Chardin, Charles Sterling's statement of Renoir's achievement in still-life could well describe the present painting: "nurtured on the traditions of eighteenth century French painting, Renoir...carried on the serene simplicity of Chardin. Pale shadows, light as a breath of air, faintly ripple across the perishable jewel of a ripe fruit. Renoir reconciles extreme discretion with extreme richness, and his full-bodied density is made up, it would seem, of colored air. This is a lyrical idiom hitherto unknown in still life, even in those of Chardin" (quoted in Still Life in Painting from Antiquity to the Present Time, Paris, 1959, p. 100).
(fig. 1) The artist in Paris, 1895. Photograph by Martial Caillebotte. BARCODE: 28854715