Durand-Ruel (on deposit by the artist from Sepetmber 9, 1914 until July 27, 1917)
Estate of the artist
Alphonse Bellier, Paris
Galerie de l'Art Moderne, Lucerne
Durand-Ruel, New York
Lady Marks of Broughton, London
The Honorable Mrs. Gerald Marcow (sold: Christie's, London, November 30, 1976, lot 16)
Acquired at the above sale
Berlin, Galerie Flechtheim, Renoir, 1927, no. 4
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Renoir Portraitiste, 1938, no. 24 (as dating from 1897)
London, Marlborough Fine Arts, Renoir, 1951, no. 2
London, Tate Gallery, Renoir, 1953, no. 29
London, Hayward Gallery; Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Renoir, 1985-86, no. 98
Mm. Bernheim-Jeune, L'Atelier de Renoir, Paris, 1931, vol. I, no. 183, illustrated pl. 60
Michel Drucker, Renoir, Paris, 1944, illustrated pl. 122
M. Berr de Turique, Renoir, Paris, n.d., illustrated pl. 71
G. S. Whittet, "Renoir Paintings," The Studio, London, 1951, illustrated pp. 27-28
Jean Renoir, Renoir, My Father, London, 1962, illustrated opposite p. 233
Michel Drucker, Renoir, Paris, 1955, illustrated pl. 108
T. Kennedy, "Twelve favourite paintings," The Connoisseur, London, December 1960, illustrated p. 251
W. Gaunt, Renoir, London, 1962, illustrated pl. 42
François Daulte, "Renoir, son oeuvre regardé comme un album de famille," Connaissance des Arts, Paris, November 1964, illustrated pl. 22
François Daulte, Renoir, Milan, Paris and New York, 1972, illustrated p. 81
Barbara Ehrlich White, Renoir: His Life, Art and Letters, New York, 1984, illustrated p. 215
Painted in 1898, Le Déjeuner à Berneval is one of Renoir’s most accomplished group portraits that depicts the members of his family. He paints them at breakfast, rendering the family’s morning ritual with an insight and sensitivity that underscores his role as a father and as one of the premiere portraitists of the late 19th century. The artist’s eldest son, Pierre, sits in the foreground reading a book. Gabrielle Renard, the children’s governess and one of the artist’s favorite models (see fig. 1), stands in the background and serves a cup of chocolate to the artist’s son Jean, who was about five at the time of this picture. Gabrielle’s figure seems to illuminate the surrounding space with a maternal glow, while the two boys demonstrate an air of refinement and obedience that was expected of children of the haute bourgeoisie.
As Michel Florisoone explained, Renoir often painted his sons with the eye of a caring father, who was keenly sensitive to his children’s development (see fig. 2): “Family tenderness – that was the personal and most characteristic sentiment which Renoir reinstalled in art. Impressionism in its entirety was an art of tenderness: the tenderness of Monet and Pissarro towards ‘fresh woods and pastures new,’ the stiff yet timid tenderness of Degas towards our poor but arresting humanity … Renoir’s tenderness was that of health, – the tenderness of good companion, the father, brother, or friend, -- tenderness towards woman and the mother and, above all, towards children…..He observed the man in the making, -- he followed his metamorphosis. It was a grave matter this growing up of a little boy, in whom the mystery of life – as he learnt what life meant – was developing” (Michel Florisoone, Renoir, London and Toronto, 1937, p. 25-7).
Though his work was generally categorized as Impressionist, Renoir was on a wholly individual course by the last decade of the 19th century. In the 1890s his paintings demonstrated a heightened attention to detail that reflected his admiration of the French painters of the 18th century, like Ingres, Boucher and Fragonard (see fig. 3). But he interpreted the influence of the Old Masters in a characteristically Impressionist manner, using a blend of soft, pastel colors. Thanks to the public demand for these compositions, Renoir was able to distinguish himself as one of the most singular and prominent artists in late 19th century France. By the 1890s, his success allowed him the luxury to travel extensively throughout the rural regions of France and the great cities of Europe. It is in this period of joyful exploration and artistic growth that Renoir painted Le Déjeuner à Berneval, during his stay in a chalet on the coast of Normandy.
Renoir’s organization of the figures in this composition captures the intimacy of the scene, while providing the viewer with a full picture of the family’s early morning activities. The format of this painting has specific precedents which Renoir must have had in mind while he composed this picture. The interplay between Pierre’s figure in the foreground and Jean and Gabrielle in the background recalls his portrait from two years earlier, Mlle Christine Lerolle Sewing (see fig. 4). Also analogous is a painting by Degas, Dancing Lesson, which was in Renoir’s possession by 1894 (see fig. 5). However, there is a more apparent fluidity to the composition of Le Déjeuner à Berneval. As John House observes, “Pierre’s figure frames the scene beyond, and there seems no barrier between the reading teenager and the child and maid by the table; the forms of the three figures together encircle the central focus of the picture, the laid table” (John House, Renoir (exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 267).
FIGURE 1 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle, Jean, et une fille, 1895, oil on canvas, Private Collection
FIGURE 2 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean Renoir, 1901, oil on canvas, Private Collection
FIGURE 3 Jean-Honoré Fragonard, La Liseuse, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
FIGURE 4 Pierre Auguste Renoir, Mlle. Christine Lerolle cousant, 1896, oil on canvas, Private Collection
FIGURE 5 Edgar Degas, La Leçon de danse, 1879, pastel on paper, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
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