During the first decades of his career, Pierre-Auguste Renoir experimented broadly with landscape painting. On the one hand, this genre freed him from the concern of representing the human figure, while, on the other hand, it enabled him to engage in a dialogue with Corot and the painters of the Barbizon school, whom he studied while at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts. In his landscapes, of which La prairie is a prime example, Renoir attained some of his most audacious results experimenting with light and colour.
In the present work, this freedom of expression resulted in bold colour combinations, counterbalancing the meadow’s bright shades of green with the contrasting blues of the stream. To evoke the stream’s water, he applied horizontal strokes, in contrast with the vertical ones used for the vegetation growing at its edges, whereas the sky is depicted with a skilfull blending of blue, pink and white pigments. Renoir’s interest was also rooted in the portrayal of optical effects. In order to render the loss of focus of the objects in the distance, the artist has painted with greater detail the elements of the fore and middle-ground, such as the vegetation and the trees, while the rest of the painting has a blurred quality, achieved using his masterful brushwork.