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

La maison de la poste à Cagnes

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
La maison de la poste à Cagnes
signed 'Renoir.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
12 5/8 x 18 ¼ in. (32 x 46.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1907
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, August 1908).
Dr. Albert C. Barnes, Merion, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above, March 1914).
Nelle M. Mullen, Merion, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above, circa 1925); Estate sale, Samuel T. Freeman & Co., Philadelphia, 15 November 1967, lot 14.
Jane du Pont Lunger, Greenville, Delaware (acquired at the above sale).
The Delaware Art Museum (gift from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 5 May 2004, lot 231.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
A.C. Barnes and V. De Mazia, The Art of Renoir, New York, 1935, pp. 89, 122-123 and 463, no. 222 (titled View of Cagnes and dated circa 1900).
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2012, vol. IV, p. 230, no. 3083 (illustrated).

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Vanessa Fusco
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Lot Essay

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.

In 1907 Renoir moved to the warm climate of Cagnes-sur-Mer at the Mediterranean Coast, where he bought the Domaine des Collettes, built a house and lived there for the remainder of his life, making the sun-filled landscape and its surroundings the subject of some of his most beautiful paintings. Renoir had discovered Cagnes-sur-Mer in the late 1880s and returned frequently thereafter. Still able to move freely and without a wheelchair, he painted the local post office in a number of paintings. The house was well known to him as prior to building his own house, he had occupied an apartment on the top floor. In this painting, the artist depicts the house and adjacent buildings in profile, facing the Mediterranean sunshine head-on. Surrounded by lush trees in the foreground and rolling mountains in the distance, the house is bordered by a pathway that extends to the lower edge of the canvas, marking out the spot where Renoir must have set up his easel to depict the scene. The painting thus bears witness to one of the central tenets of Impressionism: the plein-air master seated outdoors, before nature, rapidly transcribing his immediate sensations.
La maison de la poste à Cagnes did not remain with the artist for very long. Renoir sold it to the legendary Impressionist dealer Paul Durand-Ruel in August 1908. One of Durand-Ruel’s most pioneering strategies was his decision to open an eponymous gallery in New York, presenting Impressionism to an American audience. He quickly established a market for the work of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Renoir. In 1914 La maison de la poste à Cagnes was acquired by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, one of the most important American collectors of the 20th century. His collection of modern art remains among the greatest of its kind, featuring innumerable masterpieces by Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Renoir. A scientist who amassed a great fortune in the pharmaceutical industry, Barnes began collecting art in 1912. His interest in Renoir soon developed into a fervent passion. By 1915, he had acquired just under forty works by the artist, writing to Durand-Ruel, “It is fair to say that I have spent in purchasing paintings by Renoir the sum of a million and a half francs, and it is my hope to make this collection one of the best in the world” (quoted in M. Lucy and J. House, Renoir in the Barnes Foundation, New Haven, 2012, p. 21). This passion grew into an obsession, and by 1920 he had the largest collection of Renoir’s art in the world. Renoir was the artist whom Barnes admired above all others. On the occasion of the artist’s death in 1919, he stated emphatically, “For years he has been my God—no religion or no poetry could have so combined value and existence for me” (quoted in, ibid., p. 30).

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