This work will be included in the critical catalogue of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's paintings being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.
Tête de jeune fille is filled with the tenderness and luminosity so particular to Renoir's paintings and perfectly demonstrates why he was considered one of the greatest of the portraitists of Impressionism. This picture of a girl with gleaming, auburn hair dates from 1888, a year that marked a turning point in Renoir's career as he abandoned some of the experimentation that had preoccupied him for some time and returned to his signature feathered brushstrokes and the exploration of that sense of light that is so in evidence in this picture. He described this manner to his dealer Durand-Ruel as, 'soft and light of touch,' and these qualities are clearly in evidence in Tête de jeune fille (Renoir, quoted in D.W. Druick, Renoir, Chicago, 1997, p.68). Now, rather than looking to innovations, he turned instead towards the Old Masters, seeking out the works of artists who favoured bold, loose, gestural brushstrokes; these are echoed in the hair, clothing and background of this picture. By contrast, the face has been rendered with incredibly delicate care, perfectly capturing the play of light and shadow on the sitter's youthful features. While Renoir's figures often had a 'look' that was as much due to the artist's own inimitable style as to their own appearance, the girl in Tête de jeune fille bears a strong resemblance to some of the girls appearing in his repeated images of girls playing the piano, painted during the following few years, viewed in a similar profile manner.
It is a tribute to the quality of Tête de jeune fille that it has featured in several highly prominent collections. In 1930, it was acquired by Robert Lehman, the son of one of the founders of Lehman Brothers bank; Robert took the reins of the company and successfully steered it through the stock market crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression, as perhaps is indicated by the timing of his purchase of this picture. As well as owning an impressive stable, Lehman assembled an incredible collection of art, impressive enough that in 1957 it was granted the singular honour of a dedicated exhibition at the Orangerie in Paris. Lehman was the first American to be granted such recognition by the French cultural establishment. The picture was later in the collection of Berenice Chrysler Garbisch. The daughter of Walter P. Chrysler, the founder of the corporation of the same name, Berenice and her husband, Colonel Edgar William Garbisch, owned several works by Renoir as well as a famous collection of American folk art. Many of their works were donated to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Chrysler Museum of Art.