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Femme nue assise appuyée sur un coussin vert (Nu assis)

Femme nue assise appuyée sur un coussin vert (Nu assis)
signed 'Renoir' (lower right)
oil on canvas
21 5/8 x 18 1/8 in. (55 x 46 cm.)
Painted in Cagnes circa 1912-1914
Georges Bernheim, Paris; his sale, Galerie Jean Charpentier, Paris, 7 June 1935, lot 78.
Jacques Seligmann, Paris & New York, by whom acquired at the above sale, until at least 25 May 1939.
Private collection, California; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 13 November 1990, lot 33 ($2,750,000).
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
G.-P. & M. Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. V, 1911-1919 & 1er supplément, Paris, 2014, no. 4311, p. 408 (illustrated).
Hiroshima, Prefectural Art Museum, Monet and Renoir: Two Great Impressionist Trends, November 2003 - January 2004, no. 79, p. 109 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, February - May 2004.
Fort Lauderdale, NSU Art Museum, William J. Glackens and Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Affinities and Distinctions, October 2018 - May 2019; this exhibition later travelled to Chattanooga, Hunter Museum of American Art, June - September 2019.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Sale room notice
Please note that 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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Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Vice-Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Europe

Lot Essay

Painted circa 1912-1914, Femme nue assise appuyée sur un coussin vert (Nu assis) presents the abiding theme of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s late career – the female nude. Looking to the great figural painters of the past, Titan and Rubens in particular, Renoir married his own Impressionist style with the lavish brushstrokes and glowing palette of the old masters, creating a unique form of this venerated subject. ‘In his final works,’ the critic Georges Rivière wrote, ‘Renoir expressed himself more completely than in any other time in his career with a force hitherto unmatched… In the many nudes he painted at this time, the flesh is rendered with a luminosity of colour and without any opposing shadow: an intense vitality, an impression of ineffable youthfulness’ (quoted in Renoir: The Body, the Senses, exh. cat., The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, 2019, p. 47).
Seated amid a bucolic, verdant bower, lost in thought as she gazes downwards, the female figure in the present work bears a striking resemblance to Gabrielle Renard, one of the artist’s favourite sitters of the time. Gabrielle had arrived in the Renoir family’s life some years earlier, in 1894, when she was employed as a nanny. Living in Cagnes in the south of France, at Les Collettes, the home that the artist moved to in 1908, she soon became an indispensable presence, remaining with the family for two decades. Possessing all the features that Renoir searched for in a model – delicate, fair skin, a youthful radiance, and a natural, relaxed poise – Gabrielle quickly began to sit for Renoir, soon becoming his favoured model.
Since Renoir’s seminal trip to Italy in 1881, the art of the past had played an ever more important role in his painting. Inspired by Raphael’s frescoes in Rome, as well as those in Pompeii, together with the famed paintings of Titian, Renoir began to execute the single, monumental nudes in outdoor settings that remained a central theme of his oeuvre through the last three decades of his career. In this final decade it was the work of Titian and Rubens that came to the fore in Renoir’s own conception of the female nude. ‘That old Titian, he even looks like me, and he is forever stealing my tricks,’ Renoir is said to have quipped at this time (quoted in Renoir, exh. cat., Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 278). In a manner akin to Titian’s late technique, Renoir adopted a radiant, rich palette applied with sensuous yet delicate brushstrokes that lend nudes such as Femme nue assise appuyée sur un coussin vert (Nu assis) such a glowing monumentality.
In the opening decades of the twentieth century, the classically-inspired female nude was a controversial subject in the avant-garde. Yet, as the First World War commenced, the nude and its iconographic implications – the embodiment of a calm harmony, abundance and wholeness, and of French classicism and by extension antiquity – were reembraced by artists as part of the nascent ‘Return to Order,’ the aesthetic sensibility that would come to define the wartime and post-war avant-garde. As the poet and writer, Guillaume Apollinaire had surmised in his review of the now infamous Futurist exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris in 1912, ‘the suppression of the nude for ten years is the unwitting consequence of a subliminal decision made by nearly all modern artists. Yet the aged Renoir, the greatest painter of our time and one of the greatest painters of all time, devotes his final days to painting these admirable and voluptuous nudes, which will command the admiration of generations to come’ (quoted in Renoir: The Body, The Senses, exh. cat., Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, 2019, p. 47). Before Amedeo Modigliani began painting his series of recumbent, sensually reclining and seated nudes, so Renoir too was immersed in this world of artistic idealism, abundance, harmony and peace, conjuring in canvases such as the present, worlds that were far removed from the terrifying reality that France faced.

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