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Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Deux femmes dans le jardin de Cagnes

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Deux femmes dans le jardin de Cagnes
stamped with signature 'Renoir.' (Lugt2137b; lower left)
oil on canvas
21 3/8 x 25½ in. (54.9 x 64.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1918
Anon. sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 23 June 1933, lot 75.
Anon. sale, Versailles, 22 November 1964, lot 67.
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 6 December 1977, lot 14.
Private collection, Switzerland.
Daniel B. Grossman, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, November 1991.
Bernheim-Jeune, eds., L'Atelier de Renoir, Paris, 1931, vol. II, no. 607 (illustrated, pl. 190).
London, O'Hana Gallery, French Paintings and Sculptures, June- September 1964, no. 55.

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.

We are grateful to Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville for confirming that this painting is included in their Bernheim-Jeune archives as an authentic work.

The First World War was a period of great tribulation for Renoir. In September 1914 both of Renoir's eldest sons, Pierre and Jean, were wounded in the fighting. Jean returned to the front and was wounded again, this time more seriously, in April 1915. Renoir's wife Aline, to whom he had been married for 35 years, suddenly died in June; she was only 56. The artist was an invalid and confined to a wheelchair, his hands and legs crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. Nevertheless, Renoir continued to paint. His eyesight was as keen as ever--unlike that of Monet and Degas in their old age--and Jean claimed that his father's arm "was as steady as that of a young man" (in Renoir, My Father, New York, 1958, p. 423).

The armistice of November 1918 met with much rejoicing in the Renoir household at Les Collettes, his home in Cagnes. The artist was reunited with his sons, and he was determined to commemorate the advent of peace by painting a large canvas, to which he also could point as the culmination of his life's work. He finished this painting, Les grandes baigneuses (fig. 1), in early 1919.

The present painting is one of a series of canvases showing figures in a landscape that Renoir painted in preparation for his final important bathers composition. Jean noted that Renoir no longer liked the cold, northern light in his large indoor studio, and in order to obtain the right effect for his outdoor figure paintings, he constructed an outdoor workspace:

He had a sort of glassed-in shed built for himself, about five yards square, with window frames which could be opened wide. The light came into it from all directions. This shelter was situated among the olive trees and rank grass. It was almost as if he were working out-of-doors, but with the glass as protection for his health. While he was being put into his wheel chair, the model went outside and took her place on flower-spangled grass. The foliage of the olive trees sifted the rays of light and made an arabesque on her red blouse. The landscape was a microcosm of all the riches in the world. His eyes, nose and ears were assailed by countless contradictory sensations. 'It's intoxicating,' he kept repeating (op. cit., pp. 428-429).

Renoir's two models in this idyllic scene were Madeleine Bruno, a local village girl who first posed for Renoir in 1913, and Andrée Heuchling, known as Dédée, who joined the Renoir household in 1915. Dédée was red-haired and plump; Madeleine was dark-haired and possessed a slighter build. Renoir liked to contrast their features in his dual figure compositions, although he invariably exaggerated the voluptuousness of their figures in order to achieve his conception of the timeless and monumental qualities of classical form. Here, near the very end of his career, Renoir "could still embody his ideals and fantasies in healthy, relaxed, convivial figures basking in a sunny rural setting. The quintessence of beauty for him was still sensuousness, best expressed through plump women who are the link between the cycle of life and artistic creativity" (B. E. White, Renoir, His Life, Art, and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 280).

(fig. 1) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Les grandes baigneuses, 1918-1919. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. BARCODE 23657687

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