Private Collection, Belgium
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Ambroise Vollard, La Vie & l'œuvre de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1919, illustrated p. 16 (titled Musiciens)
In 1882 and 1883, Renoir painted three large-scale canvases depicting a dancing couple: La Danse à Bougival (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), La Danse à la ville (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) and La Danse à la compagne (Musée d'Orsay, Paris). This trio of paintings is considered as Renoir's last and most accomplished depictions of suburban leisure activity. Ever the painter of "modern life," in this series Renoir elevates the common subject by working on a scale that is virtually life-size, bringing the dancing couple right up to the picture plane and subjugating background details to make the figures even more imposing.
The present drawing relates directly to the Boston painting (fig. 1). The woman is the main focus of both the viewer and her dancing companion, who is clearly rapt by her delicate beauty and elegance. There is a wonderful sense of momentum to the work, the couple swirling in unison and delight to the joyful music. The energy of the scene is reflected in Renoir's confident and spontaneous handling.
The model for the male figure was Paul-Auguste Lhote, who was Renoir's best friend at the time, an author, great traveller, and officer of a cruise-ship crossing Le Havre to New York. Renoir provided a drawing based on the Boston painting to Lhote as an illustration for a short story he published in La Vie moderne in November 1883. The female model was the seventeen-year-old Marie-Clémentine Valadon, a young painter who later assumed the name Suzanne Valadon, and was to be the mother of Maurice Utrillo.
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