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 Wildestein.
This painting 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.
The model for the present painting, Andrée Heuchling, known to her friends as Dédée, joined the Renoir household in 1915 when she was sixteen years old. Renoir's close friend and colleague, the painter Albert André, hoped that the youthful Andrée, whose lustrous red hair he thought 'superb,' would inspire the ailing artist. And indeed, as Jean Renoir, the artist's filmmaker son and Andrée's future husband later recalled: "her skin 'took the light' better than any model that Renoir ever had in his life. She sang, slightly off key, the popular songs of the day; told stories about her girl friends; was gay; and cast over my father the revivifying spell of her joyous youth. Along with the roses, which grew almost wild at Les Collettes, and the great olive trees with their silvery reflections, Andrée was one of the vital elements which helped Renoir to interpret on his canvas the tremendous cry of love he uttered at the end of his life" (Renoir, My Father, New York, 1958, p. 426).
In the autumn of his career, Renoir "could still embody his ideals and fantasies in healthy, relaxed, convivial figures. The quintessence of beauty for him was still sensuousness, best expressed through plump young women who are the link between the cycle of life and artistic activity" (B.E. White, Renoir, His Life, His Art and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 280). Andrée exemplified this quintessential beauty and her nubile figure featured often in Renoir's paintings from 1915, the year of the present work, until his death in 1919, ultimately serving as the basis for both nudes in his final masterwork, Grandes baigneuses (Musée d'Orsay, Paris).
The present painting formerly belonged to the celebrated writer W. Somerset Maugham. Though his plays are little remembered today, he was among the most successful dramatists of his day, with four of his shows running in London at one time in 1908. Flush with theatrical success, Maugham began collecting in earnest around the publication of The Moon and Sixpence (1919), his fictionalized account of Paul Gauguin's life. He donated his theatrical pictures--his collection of which was, in his own words, "second only to that of the Garrick Club"--to the Trustees of the National Theatre in 1948 and auctioned part of his modern paintings collection in 1962.
The present work enjoyed pride of place in Maugham's collection--pictured in situ alongside the writer (fig 1.) for his illuminating New York Times article on collecting, "Why and How I Collected: By Maugham," and featured as the cover illustration for his collection monograph, Purely for my Pleasure (1962). Baigneuse assise also has the distinction of inclusion in one of the first western auctions in Japan, in 1969.