The critical response was generally favorable and these two canvases received a great deal of attention. Philippe Burty in an April 1883 issue of La Republique française praised the overall modernity of Renoir’s work “We should not miss an opportunity to praise him for seeking to extract the modern from our gestures, our smiles, our pleasures, our confined manner of clothing…to distill the contemporary from the actual sites in which it evolves.” Burty goes on to discuss the two large dance scenes stating “here we are no longer presented with the old program: a bacchante shaking her systra, a Neapolitan girl playing her tambourine, Corinne doing the dance of the shawls on Cape Miseno. No, we see instead a young couple who, after dining on the terrace in one of Paris’s suburbs, get to their feet to the sounds of a distant orchestra, take hold of each other and begin to dance the polka. And the pendant shows a society ball, with a young man leading his partner in a waltz” (reproduced in C. Bailey, Op.cit., p. 184).
In each of these three compositions the male figure was modeled by Renoir’s close friend Paul Lhote, whereas the female figure varied. In La Danse à la ville and La Danse à Bougival the artist Suzanne Valadon is generally agreed upon to be the model. In La Danse à la campagne, however, the model is Aline Charigot, at the time Renoir’s mistress and, in years to come, his wife. It is thought she was originally the female figure in La Danse à Bougival but that the canvas was later modified and changed to reflect the figure and face of Valadon. The relationship between La Danse à la campagne and La Danse à Bougival are in some ways stronger than between the two works shown at the 1883 retrospective, which have traditionally been viewed as a duo. The female figure wears the same extraordinary hat in each work and variations of belted day-time dress, suited for the more casual country atmosphere. In La Danse à la campagne a man’s straw hat lays on the ground at lower right, likely from a gentleman outside of the image. This same hat, or another version of it, appears on the head of Lhote in La Danse à Bougival.
In the present drawing, almost every detail found in the oil is meticulously reproduced, from the distant faces of other figures at center left to the shading of the leaves on the tree above the table and the spoon jutting up from the cub on the table. Renoir’s normal artistic process at this time did not call for sketches and studies. La Danse à la campagne was a different case. Several studies exist in wash and watercolor, in pencil and chalk, as well as one dazzlingly emotive oil sketch in loose, bright hues. While the number of preparatory sketches is notable for Renoir, the present work was created several months after the oil was completed to assist in the preparation for an illustration published in La Vie Moderne, which appeared on January 26, 1884.
This drawing formed part of the collection of Paul Rosenberg. Rosenberg, one of the most important proponents of early modern artists in France, exclusively representing, for certain periods, both Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Rosenberg opened eponymous galleries in London and New York, aiding in the migration of modern art between these cultural centers. La Danse à la campagne remained with Rosenberg's descendants until 2007 when it was acquired by the present owner.
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