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

Le faisan

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Le faisan
signed ‘Renoir.’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
19 1/2 x 25 5/8 in. (49.5 x 65 cm.)
Painted circa 1879
Paul Bérard, Wargemont; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 8-9 May 1905, lot 28 (FFr 3,000).
Alfred Bérard, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale and until at least 1913.
Jean-Henri Laroche, Paris.
Jacques Laroche, Paris.
Paul Rosenberg, Paris and New York, by 1952.
Walter P. Chrysler, Jr, Provincetown, Massachusetts, by 1958; sale, Sotheby's, London, 1 July 1959, lot 34.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the late owner.
M. Bérard, Renoir à Wargemont, Paris, 1938 (illustrated pl. 11).
M. Drucker, Renoir, Paris, 1944, p. 180.
'Lettres de Renoir à Paul Bérard', in La Revue de Paris, December 1968.
F. Daulte, 'Renoir et la famille Bérard', in L'Oeil, vol. 223, nos. 4-13, Paris, February 1974, no. 17, p. 89 (illustrated).
G.P. Dauberville & M. Dauberville, Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. I, 1858-1881, Paris, 2007, no. 54, p. 144 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, A. Renoir, January - February 1900, no. 6.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Renoir, March 1913, no. 27.
New York, Duveen Galleries, Renoir Loan Exhibition, November - December 1941, no. 28, p. 50 (illustrated).
New York, Seligmann-Helft Galleries, French Still Life from Chardin to Cézanne, October - November 1947.
Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, La nature morte de l'antiquité à nos jours, April - June 1952, no. 94, p. 119 (illustrated pl. 38).
Portland Art Museum, Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr, March - April 1956, no. 79, p. 48 (illustrated p. 123); this exhibition later travelled to the Seattle Art Museum, April - May 1956; San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, June - July 1956; Los Angeles, County Museum, of Art, July - August 1956; the Minneapolis Art Institute, September - October 1956; St Louis, City Art Museum, October - November 1956; Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, November 1956 - January 1957; the Detroit Institute of Art, January - February 1957; and Boston, Museum, of Fine Arts, March - April 1957.
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Loan Exhibition Renoir, April - May 1958, no. 28, p. 42 (illustrated).
Provincetown, Massachusetts, Chrysler Art Museum, Inaugural Exhibition, July - September 1958, no. 49, pp. 26-27 (illustrated p. 89).
Lausanne, Palais de Beaulieu, Chefs-d'œuvre des collections suisses: De Manet à Picasso, May - October 1964, no. 59 (illustrated).
Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, Chefs-d'œuvre des collections suisses: De Manet à Picasso, May - October 1967, no. 58 (illustrated).
London, The Royal Academy, From Manet to Gauguin: Masterpieces from Swiss Private Collections, June - October 1995, no. 57, p. 116 (illustrated).
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Revoir Renoir, June - November 2014, no. 23 (illustrated).
Special notice
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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.

Painted circa 1879, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Le faisan is a stunning example of the artist’s keen skills of observation and mastery of paint, its elegant rendering of the beautiful form of a small pheasant caught in harsh snowy conditions a masterclass in brushwork, colour and texture. 1879 saw one of the coldest and most severe winters recorded in France during the Nineteenth Century, with temperatures reaching a low of minus 25 degrees Celsius in some areas. Snow started to fall in earnest towards the end of November, and continued for weeks on end, bringing transportation across the country almost to a halt, as the accumulated snow and ice rendered routes impassable. Perhaps most dramatic of all, the Seine froze over, a rare phenomenon that drew huge crowds to its banks to see the spectacle for themselves, garnering an enormous amount of attention in the press. In rendering the death of the pheasant, its colourful form perfectly preserved by the cold weather, Renoir captures a sense of the spectacular, but perilous, beauty that lay at the heart of this fairytale frozen world, its dazzling colours and glittering reflections at once captivating and dangerous.

One of the most striking elements of the composition is the array of jewel-like colours the artist employs, most noticeably in the rich, multi-hued plumage of the pheasant, where the artist’s palette ranges from the deep teal around its head and neck, to a subtle crimson on its breast, and the rich blues and oranges that dominate its wings and lower body. Each colour gradually merges with its surrounding shades, subtly shifting from one to the other in a delicate progression of pigment. Renoir conveys a sense of the soft, silky texture of the feathers, meanwhile, through a series of delicate, precise strokes, an effect which stands in stark contrast to the loose, thick, swift brushwork used to render the snowy background. While the artist no doubt spent many hours wandering through the snow-filled landscapes that surrounded his home during the winter of 1879, fascinated by the subtle nuances of colour that lay in the layers of snow and ice that enveloped the countryside, the harsh conditions must have made it almost impossible to paint en-plein-air. As such, the present composition was most likely executed in Renoir’s studio, with the artist drawing on his memories of the kaleidoscopic array of colour in the snow to reconstruct the scene.

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