The Wildenstein Institute will include this painting in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Pierre-Auguste Renoir established from the archives of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.
Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville have confirmed that this painting is included in their Bernheim-Jeune archives as an authentic work.
Although Renoir's hands and legs had been badly crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, and he was confined to a wheel chair, he continued to paint daily. In 1918, only a year before his death, the artist was determined to commemorate the end of the First World War, in which his oldest sons Pierre and Jean had both fought and been wounded. He painted a huge canvas, a final masterpiece that would represent the culmination of his life's work. This was the Grandes baigneuses, which he finished in early 1919 in a relatively short time. This composition is notable for the way in which the figures and the landscape have been fused within a flattened, modernist pictorial space, an achievement that parallels the late bather compositions of Paul Cézanne.
The present painting is a study for the upper body of the reclining nude seen in the foreground of Grande baigneuses. The model for both figures in the latter, as well as the present painting, was Andrée Heuchling, known to the Renoir family as Dédée, who joined their household in 1915, when she was sixteen years old. Jean Renoir, who married her in 1920, wrote that she was "red-haired, plump, and her skin 'took the light' better than any model that Renoir ever had in his life. 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" (in Renoir, My Father, New York, 1962, p. 426).
Here, in the autumn of his career, Renoir "could still embody his ideals and fantasies in healthy, relaxed, convivial figures basking in a sunny rural setting. 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). The paintings of this late period proved to be influential on a younger generation of artists, and helped turn the course of painting in the aftermath of the war toward a new classicism.