Lot 8
  • 8

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

bidding is closed


  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • signed Renoir (upper right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 46 by 38cm.
  • 18 1/8 by 15in.


Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on 15th June 1882)
Theodor Ralli, Athens (acquired from the above on 19th November 1883)
Private Collection, Paris (1971)
Harris Whittemore, USA (sale: Christie's, New York, 13th May 1980, lot 30)
Juan Alvarez de Toledo Collection (sale: Christie's, New York, 12th November 1985, lot 15)
Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York
Private Collection, USA
Acquired by the present owner in 2001


New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, 1996


François Fosca, Renoir, Paris, 1923, illustrated pl. 12
François Daulte, Auguste Renoir. Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint. Figures 1860-1890, Lausanne, 1971, no. 254, illustrated
Elda Fezzi, L'Opera completa di Renoir nel  periodo impressionista 1869-1883, Milan, 1972, no. 298, illustrated p. 102

Catalogue Note

In its elegance and beauty, Réflexion is a classic example of Renoir's style at the height of his Impressionist period. Treating the artist's signature theme, it captures the beauty of the sitter with all the grace and serenity characteristic of Renoir's major works. Portrayed in semi-profile, the woman is shown here alone and self-absorbed seemingly unaware of being watched and painted. The sensuousness of the composition is heightened by her slightly open mouth and the invocation of the sense of touch, as she rests her head on her beautifully positioned right hand whilst her left gracefully strokes her cheek. Renoir used a palette of soft colours to render the delicate features of the woman's face and hands whilst contrasting it with the stronger tones, such as the deep blue of her costume and hat, and the bright red of the flower, the collar and her lips. Against the broadly brushed, subdued background, the flesh is treated with great clarity, especially in the colour nuances which model the face.


The subject of the seated figure had long been a constant in Renoir's art, even since the early days of his career when he exhibited at the Salon. As in the present work, Renoir's sitters were often young women, with a sensuality and finesse that became the hallmark of his art. Discussing Renoir's portraiture, John House has noted that he was able to 'combine breadth with extreme delicacy of effect... At times he painted very thinly and with much medium over a white priming, particularly in his backgrounds, allowing the tone and texture of the canvas to show through, and creating effects almost like watercolour. His figures tend to be more thickly painted, but not with single layers of opaque colour; instead fine streaks of varied hue are built up, which create a varied, almost vibrating surface' (J. House, Renoir (exhibition catalogue), Hayward Gallery, London & Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1985, p. 278).


Renoir's admiration for the Old Masters and the art of eighteenth century France in particular, led him to produce numerous portraits that enabled him to explore a full range of painterly effects. In Réflexion, the introvert posture of the woman and her elegant costume with a hat create a rather noble effect whilst the model's fine features with her demure gaze and her delicate hands express a state of intimacy and harmony. As suggested by the title, Renoir seems to transcend the genre of portraiture and develops a more symbolic sense of expression. Depicting the sitter against a neutral, unidentified background, Renoir brilliantly focuses the viewer's attention on the woman's face whereby the artist's skilled draughtsmanship becomes evident. Additionally, the refined depiction of the model's wonderfully finished eyes and feathers on the sleeves of the dress underline the artist's meticulous attention to detail and style.


Fascinated by Renoir's exquisite rendering of female portraits, Théodore Duret remarked: 'Renoir excels at portraits. Not only does he catch the external features, but through them he pinpoints the model's character and inner self. I doubt whether any painter has ever interpreted woman in a more seductive manner. The deft and lively touches of Renoir's brush are charming, supple and unrestrained, making flesh transparent and tinting the cheeks and lips with a perfect living hue. Renoir's women are enchantresses' (T. Duret, reprinted in Histoire des peintres impressionnistes, Paris, 1922, pp. 27-28).