Gabrielle Renard had been a loyal and indispensable member of the Renoir household, as well as the artist's favorite model and studio assistant, since 1895. She was dismissed, however, at the end of 1913 because of friction with Renoir's wife, Aline. A year later, some of Renoir's friends in Nice found a new model for the painter, and sent her on to Les Collettes, the artist's home in Cagnes. Her name was Andrée Heuchling (variously spelled Hessling). She was known as Dédée to her friends.
Andrée was sixteen when she arrived at Les Collettes in early 1915, and her ebullient and attractive personality helped brighten the Renoir household. The First World War had entered its first full year, and the artist's oldest sons Pierre and Jean were serving at the front. Both were wounded that spring. Jean almost lost a leg and his life to gangrene, and Aline struggled to look after him while he was in the hospital recovering. She died suddenly of a heart attack in June 1915, at the age of 56. Renoir was himself an invalid, confined to a wheelchair, his hands and legs crippled by rheumatoid arthritis. Gabrielle returned that September to look after him, but at 36 she was no longer his ideal model. The painter Albert André, Renoir's close friend, hoped that Andrée, this "superb redhead," would be the incentive that the ailing artist needed to continue his work. And indeed, as Jean Renoir, who first met her while on leave from the front, later recalled, "her skin 'took the light' better than any model had ever 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" (in Renoir, My Father, New York, 1958, p. 426).
Andrée's nubile, Rubens-like figure frequently featured in Renoir's paintings from 1915 to his death in 1919. She served as the model for both nudes in the artist's final masterwork, Grandes baigneuses, 1918-1919 (coll. Musée d'Orsay, Paris; see note to sale, Christie's, New York, 4 May 2004, lot 7). Jean Renoir, who later became one of the most famous film directors of his time, married Andrée in 1920, a few months after the death of his father.