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.
This work will be included in volume IV or subsequent volumes of the Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles de Renoir being prepared by Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville published by Bernheim-Jeune.
'He was radiant, in the true sense of the word, by which I mean that we felt there were rays emanating from his brush, as it caressed the canvas. He was freed from all theories, from all fears' (J. Renoir, Renoir, My Father, trans. R. & W. Weaver, London, 1962, p. 394).
Painted in 1918, Femmes dans un paysage perfectly encapsulates the supple touch, flowing rhythms and compositional harmony characteristic of Auguste Renoir's work. The present painting is one of a series of canvases depicting figures in the bucolic landscape of the artist's estate at Cagnes on France's Côte d'Azur.
In 1907, Renoir had purchased the estate of Les Collettes in Cagnes, just west of Nice. Commanding a broad panorama of the surrounding countryside, Renoir celebrated the landscape of Les Collettes with its many olive trees and picturesque farmhouse, in radiant shimmering paintings. 'The story of Cagnes and Renoir is a love story', the artist's son Jean later remarked (Ibid., p. 379). Having lost his wife Aline, and his two elder sons sustaining severe injuries in the First World War, Renoir's Arcadian landscapes of the time could be seen as his construction of a fantasy world, the creation, in a sense, of an 'earthly paradise' (see J. House, 'Renoir and the Earthly Paradise', Oxford Art Journal, vol. 8, no. 2, 1985, pp. 21-27). To create these landscapes, Renoir worked from a specially constructed studio space, a glass shelter, in the estate's grounds. This replicated the experience of working en plein air thereby enabling him to take full advantage of the pictorial possibilities of the landscape. As Jean explained: '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' (op. cit., 1962, p. 400).
Renoir's central preoccupation at this time was the depiction of the female figure in nature. Here, the seating and standing figures seem to merge with their surrounding environment, creating a unified and harmonious pictorial whole. Renoir creates this unity between figure and ground through the use of colour and brushwork; fluid strokes of thinly applied warm pinks and oranges contrast with cool greens and blues and rhythmically echo across the picture's surface. 'I'm trying to fuse the landscape with my figures', Renoir declared the very year the present work was painted, 'the Old Masters never attempted this' (Renoir, quoted in Renoir, exh. cat., London, 1985, p. 278).