Lot 39
  • 39

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Estimate
900,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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Description

  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Portrait de Jean Renoir
  • Signed Renoir (upper right)
  • Oil on canvas

Provenance

Prince de Wagram, Paris (until 1906)

Bernheim-Jeune, Villers-sur-mer (acquired from the above in 1906)

Gaston Bernheim de Villers

Jean-Jacques Raimon, Paris

Sale: Drouot Montaigne, Paris, November 18, 1989, lot 65

Acquired at the above sale

Exhibited

New York, Hammer Galleries, Renoir, 2011, n.n. (incorrectly titled Portrait de Jean Renoir and dated 1899)

Literature

Michel Florisoone, Renoir, Paris, 1937, n.n., illustrated p. 62

Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Renoir, Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelle, 1903-1910, Paris, 2012, vol. IV, no. 3411, illustrated p. 433 (titled Portrait de Coco and dated 1904-1905)

Catalogue Note

Portraiture was central to Renoir's aesthetic. Of all the Impressionists he was perhaps the one who most excelled at this genre and infused the traditional process of recording the likeness of a sitter with a new force and vibrancy. Renoir's success as an artist gave him the financial security that enabled him to be selective with his commissions and focus on themes of his own choosing.   He thus turned his attention to depicting members of his family.  This charming portrait of Jean, Renoir’s second child born from his union with Aline Charigot, whom he had married in 1890, is a lively depiction of one of the artist’s favorite subjects: his children. Renoir had painted numerous commissioned portraits of children in the earlier phase of his career, but following the births of Pierre in 1885, Jean in 1894 and Claude in 1901 he frequently turned to his sons as a source of inspiration. Much like with Aline, whom Renoir depicted tirelessly in a variety of settings and guises, it was through his children that he sought to capture their spirit and corporeal growth; from infants to their transition as young boys. This work provides insight into Renoir’s artistic process and indeed bears testament to the importance of the family life he sought to capture in his work. 

Although the model for this work has previously been identified as Coco, the Wildenstein Institute identifies the sitter as Jean Renoir (1894-1978), the artist's son who would later become a legendary film director.  The present work is a study for the painting Jean Renoir Sewing, which is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. In Jean Renoir’s biography of his father, he writes “I remember quite clearly all the preparations for the picture now in the Art Institute in Chicago, showing me sewing. It was executed at Magagnosc, near Grasse, where my parents had rented a pretty villa on the side of the mountain” (Jean Renoir, Renoir, My Father, London, 1962, quoted in John Collins, Renoir Paintings and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago, ed. Gloria Groom and Jill Shaw, Chicago, 2014). Jean was one of Renoir’s most obedient sitters, sitting quietly for hours on end and often playing with toys with his nurse Gabrielle.

In the present work, Jean is depicted only from the shoulders up with his eyes cast downwards. Renowned as a figure painter, Renoir organizes his composition with correlated colors to achieve a sense of formal unity and physical presence in an intimate scene. The soft brushstrokes and gentle depiction of his adored son offer an affectionate and animated rendition of the child. His choice of contrasting colors and the dabs of paint that he applies to the surface of the canvas create the hazy, atmospheric appearance that was characteristic not only of classic Impressionist painting but of his work in particular. 

With Georges Durand-Ruel as his godfather and Jeanne Baudot his godmother, Jean followed in the footsteps of his father’s artistic pursuits by becoming a successful film director, screenwriter, actor and producer throughout the 1930s. As an author, he wrote the definitive biography of his father, Renoir, My Father, in 1962; it remains a work frequently referenced today and is filled with intimate personal anecdotes on the life of the master.

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