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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist and Modern Art, Evening Sale

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London

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
1841-1919
JEUNE FEMME SE BAIGNANT
signed Renoir and dated 88 (lower right)
oil on canvas
81 by 65.5cm.
31 7/8 by 25 3/4 in.
Painted in 1888.
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To be included in the Renoir Catalogue critique being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute from the François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein archives.

Provenance

Dr. Georges de Bellio, Paris
Ernest and Victorine Donop de Monchy, Paris (by descent from the above)
M. Hirsch, Paris (Sale: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 7th December 1912, lot 40)
Gaston Dreyfus, Paris (purchased at the above sale)
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (1913)
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (28th January 1914)
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (9th February 1918)
The Eldar Gallery, London (1920)
Ralph M. Coe, Cleveland (Sale: Sotheby & Co., London, 23rd November 1960, lot 38)
Mr and Mrs David Lloyd Kreeger, Washington, D.C. (purchased at the above sale)
Sale: Christie's, New York, 14th May 1997, lot 29
Purchased at the above sale by the previous owner

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Renoir, 1913, no. 34 
London, The Eldar Gallery, 1920
Cleveland, Museum of Art, French Paintings of the Latter 19th  Century, 1921
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute and Cleveland, Museum of Art, Edouard Manet, Pierre Renoir, Berthe Morisot, 1924, no. 1
Toronto, Art Gallery, Inaugural Exhibition, 1926, no. 130
Philadelphia, Museum of Art, Manet and Renoir, 1933-34
Cleveland, Museum of Art, Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition, 1936, no. 306
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Renoir: A Special Exhibition of his Paintings, 1937, no. 47, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Classics of the Nude, 1939, no. 29, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, World's Fair, Masterpieces of Art, 1940, no. 328
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Renoir, 1950, no. 61, illustrated in the catalogue
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Pictures Collected by Yale Alumni, 1956, no. 106, illustrated in the catalogue
Cleveland, Museum of Art, The Venetian Tradition, 1956, no. 34, illustrated in the catalogue
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 1961
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Renoir, 1969, no. 67, illustrated in the catalogue

Literature

Octave Mirbeau, Renoir, Paris, 1913, p. 32, illustrated
Willard Huntington Wright, Modern Painting, New York, 1915, p. 122
"French Paintings of the Latter 19th Century," Cleveland Museum Bulletin, June-July, 1921, p. 105
William Mathewson Milliken, "French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists at the Cleveland Museum of Art", in The Arts, November 1921, p. 71, illustrated
Georges Rivière, Renoir et ses amis, Paris, 1921, p. 79, illustrated
Henri de Regnier, Renoir, peintre du nu, Paris, 1923, pl. 19, illustrated
Théodore Duret, "Renoir", in Bulletin de la Vie Artistique, February 1925, p. 89, illustrated
Julius Meier-Graefe, Renoir, Leipzig, 1929, p. 208, no. 196, illustrated
Julius Meier-Graefe, "French 19th Century Painting in London", in The Fine Arts, May 1932, p. 15, illustrated
"Manet and Renoir," Pennsylvania Museum Bulletin, December 1933, p. 19
Théodore Duret, Renoir, New York, 1937, pl. 42, illustrated
Josephine L. Allen, "Paintings by Renoir", in Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, May 1937, p. 114
Alfred M. Frankfurter, "The Classic Nude: 1860-1905", in Art News, 15th April 1939, p. 11, illustrated
Reginald Howard Wilenski, Modern French Painters, London, 1940, p. 341, illustrated
Michel Drucker, Renoir, Paris, 1944, pl. 91, illustrated
Denis Rouart, Renoir, Lausanne, 1954, pl. 72, illustrated
Michel Drucker, Renoir, Paris, 1955, p. 92, illustrated
Raymond Cogniat, Renoir: Nus, Paris, 1959, pl. 8, illustrated
George Savage, International Art Sales, London, 1961, vol. 1, p. 90, illustrated in colour
Alan Maxwell Fern, "Kreeger Collection", in Connoisseur Yearbook, 1966, p. 28
Henri Dorra, The Collection of Mr and Mrs David Lloyd Kreeger, Washington, D.C., 1970, p. 49, illustrated
François Daulte, Auguste Renoir. Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint. Figures 1860-1890, Lausanne, 1971, vol. I, no. 554, illustrated
Elda Fezzi, L'opera completa di Renoir nel periodo impressionista 1869-1883, Milan, 1972, no. 643, illustrated
Grand Collection of World Art, Tokyo, 1974, vol. 20, Pl. XXV, illustrated in colour  

Catalogue Note

The present work is one of Renoir’s most accomplished depictions of a bather, painted in 1888 at what is considered the pinnacle of his achievements in this area. For Renoir, the nude was the totem of his genius and an important vehicle for his art. With it he could express his skill as a draughtsman, his vision as a colourist and his desire to preserve the innocent sensuality and charm of modern day woman. No other avant-garde painter of the late nineteenth century, apart from Degas, focused more energy on painting this subject, and the results he achieved were extraordinary. The critic Emile Verhaeren expressed this sentiment in a review of Renoir’s nudes in the mid-1880s: "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" (E. Verhaeren, "Impressionism", 15th June 1885, reprinted in Renoir, A Retrospective, New York, 1987, pp. 166-67).

In the present work, Renoir depicts the nude as the modern-day Venus. Like his recent predecessors Manet and Courbet, he invests the composition with several art historical references, revealing his indebtedness to the old masters. The figure’s pose refers back to the Capitoline Venus (Museo Capitolino, Rome; fig. 1) and the Venus de Medici (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence), two celebrated sculptures from classical antiquity. Rising from the water with her wet hair clinging to her body, she is reminiscent of Botticelli’s Nascità di Venere, as well as Apelles’ iconic Venus Anadyomene, which had been a source of inspiration for artists since the Renaissance. But Renoir’s depiction here is distinctly his own. Alone in the water, his Venus has no connotations of other-worldliness to suggest that she is outside of our realm. This goddess is undeniably human. As one of the painters of modern life, as the Impressionists were known, Renoir presents a contemporary woman who is able to take on the posture of a classical goddess.

Renoir’s approach to his nudes underwent a series of transformations during the 1870s and 1880s, resulting in an aesthetic that would come to epitomise his art. During his initial involvement with the Impressionist painters in the 1870s, he favoured a looser brushwork with little reliance on line, as evidenced by his sun-dappled depiction of a young girl in 1875, Nu au soleil (fig. 2). But Renoir’s emphasis on the predominance of colour over line shifted after his trip to Italy in 1881, where he saw the frescos of Raphael at the Villa Farnesina. The precision of these forms and the light coloration had a profound impact on his art. In his 1921 monograph, Renoir et ses amis, Georges Rivière recounted this aesthetic development with regard to the figures Renoir completed after his Italian trip: "These bathers who are so different from those painted before the Italian journey are of particular interest. The design has been modified and the outlines of figures have been lightly defined in a way they were not prior to 1882. The tones are simplified. In some figures they become almost flat with shadowy tints, in the style of ancient frescoes. There can be seen an attempt at color synthesis, in contrast to the diffusions of tones previously adopted by the painter" (G. Rivière, Renoir et ses amis, 1921, reprinted in ibid., p. 161).

The greatest manifestation of this effect was presented in Renoir’s Les Grandes Baigneuses of 1887 (fig. 3). This picture is the antecedent to the present work and heralded the new stylistic agenda that would govern Renoir’s art in the years to come. Here, there is a distinct linearity and solidity of form that was inspired by the draughtsmanship of Ingres. Although the subject itself derives from a frieze of nude nymphs that he had seen at Versailles, Renoir credited the aesthetic of this work to the influences of Fragonard and Boucher. Renoir had long been an admirer of the 18th century Rococo, and it was not until these bathers of the late 1880s that he so boldly embraced the pastoral setting and pastel palette that characterised their work.


Fig. 1, Capitoline Venus, circa 300-250 B.C., marble, Capitoline Museum, Rome

Fig. 2, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Nu au soleil, 1876, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris

Fig. 3, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Les Grandes Baigneuses, 1887, oil on canvas, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Impressionist and Modern Art, Evening Sale

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London