- Pierre-Auguste Renoir
- Jeune Femme (Portrait de Margot)
- signed Renoir (upper right)
- oil on canvas
- 32 by 24.5cm.
- 12 1/2 by 9 3/4 in.
Paul de Kuyper, The Hague (acquired from the above on 14th October 1881)
Jacques Michel de Zoubaloff, Paris (acquired from the above. Sold: Galerie Georges Petit, Vente Zoubaloff, 17th June 1927, lot 153)
Josse Hessel, Paris (purchased at the above sale)
Jeanne Lanvin, Paris (acquired from the above)
Comtesse Jean de Polignac, Paris (by descent from the above)
Private Collection, Paris
Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1981
Elda Fezzi, L'opera completa di Renoir nel periodo impressionista 1869-1883, Milan, 1972, no. 285, illustrated p. 101
Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2007, vol. I, no. 449, illustrated p. 458
In the late 1870s Renoir positioned himself at the centre of the burgeoning Impressionist movement, and as such he sat on a committee with his fellow painters Monet, Pissarro and Caillebotte which sought to command the attention of collectors and critics by organising exhibitions and auctions of their work. As Barbara Ehrlich White comments: ‘Renoir was a leader in planning and implementing this third Impressionist show. On 24th February 1877, Guillaumin wrote to Dr. Gachet from Paris: “The exhibition should take place on 1st April […] by writing to Renoir, 35 rue St. Georges, you would have all the possible information, since that’s where the exhibition is being prepared.” […] Renoir did not merely lend his studio as the headquarters for the complex organisation: he and Caillebotte sent out the invitations to the participants’ (B. E. White, Renoir, his Life, Art and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 74).
The sitter for the present work was one of Renoir’s favourite models Marguerite Legrand, called Margot. It belongs to a series of three paintings executed in 1877 which show Margot in profile: a larger version entitled La Liseuse (fig. 1) shows her reading a book, while another composition depicts her accompanied by the artist’s brother, Edmond, who was a journalist. Margot first met the artist in 1875 and she became his chief muse during the late 1870s, sitting for the La Conversation (1878, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, fig. 2) and Chez la Modiste (1878, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts), as well as posing as one of the dancers in La bal du Moulin de la Galette (fig. 3). Little is known about Margot, but it has been suggested that the four year association was perhaps marked by a romantic as well as professional relationship. Tragically, Margot died in February 1879, despite being attended by the eminent Doctors Gachet and de Bellio – who were incidentally collectors of Renoir’s art. The medical costs were defrayed by the artist himself, and he also gave eight works of art to provide for the education of her son Georges. In his biography of his father, Jean Renoir recalled: 'My father spoke of her to me several times. Margot was very ill. He asked Gachet to treat her. The doctor did the best he could for her, but to no avail. Margot's suffering brought the two men together, and they spent many hours at her bedside. She must have been very beautiful, very touching and very courageous' (J. Renoir, Renoir, My Father, London, 1964, p. 295).
The numerous masterpieces that she sat for possess a special tenderness and personal characterisation, and as Barbara Ehrlich White writes: ‘his strong reaction to her illness and death in 1879 suggests that they were lovers. This would explain why the theme of romance blossoms in his paintings from 1875 on, as in The Lovers [Národní Galerie, Prague] and Confidences [Sammlung Oskar Reinhart ‘Am Römerholz’, Winterthur]. Margot also posed affectionately in Woman with a Cat [National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.]’ (B. E. White, ibid., p. 51).