Emile Verhaeren, a contemporary poet and art critic of Renoir, summed up the artist's paintings of nudes and highlights the quality of Renoir's stylistic details illustrated in the present work. Verhaeren writes, "Here... is an utterly new vision, a quite unexpected interpretation of reality to solicit our imagination. Nothing is fresher, more alive and pulsating with blood and sexuality, than these bodies and faces as he portrays them. Where have they come from, those light and vibrating tones that caress arms, necks, and shoulders, and give a sensation of soft flesh and porousness? The backgrounds are suffusions of air and light; they are vague because they must not distract us" (quoted in Gerd Muehsam, ed., French Painters and Paintings from the Fourteenth Century to Post-Impressionism: A Library of Art Criticism, New York, 1970, pp. 511-12).
Petit baigneuse is related to the larger composition Étude. Torse, effet de soleil (see fig. 1), exhibited during the second Impressionist group exhibition of 1876. Shortly after this show Étude. Torse, effet de soleil was purchased by Gustave Caillebotte who bequeathed it to the French state upon his death. Initially in the Musée du Luxembourg, then the Louvre, it now resides in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
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