February 23, 2021 12:00 EDT

European Art & Old Master Paintings

 
 

58

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919)
Roses

Signed 'Renoir' bottom left, oil on canvas laid down to board
7 7/8 x 9 3/4 in. (20 x 24.8cm)
Executed in 1917.

Provenance

The Artist.
A gift from the above on March 26, 1917 through the Artist's son, Jean Renoir.
Collection of Captain and Mrs. William Boissel.
To Mrs. Boissel's niece, Mrs. Louis Cauvin, née Anne-Henriette-Alice Dorsner, Bayonne, France.
By descent in the family to her granddaughter, Mrs. Nelly (Nono) C. Stone, Alexandria, Virginia.
To her husband, Mr. John E. Stone, Alexandria, Virginia.
The Estate of John E. Stone.
A bequest from the above in 1988.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia (accession no. 88.167).

Sold for $302,400
Estimated at $60,000 - $100,000


 

Signed 'Renoir' bottom left, oil on canvas laid down to board
7 7/8 x 9 3/4 in. (20 x 24.8cm)
Executed in 1917.

Provenance

The Artist.
A gift from the above on March 26, 1917 through the Artist's son, Jean Renoir.
Collection of Captain and Mrs. William Boissel.
To Mrs. Boissel's niece, Mrs. Louis Cauvin, née Anne-Henriette-Alice Dorsner, Bayonne, France.
By descent in the family to her granddaughter, Mrs. Nelly (Nono) C. Stone, Alexandria, Virginia.
To her husband, Mr. John E. Stone, Alexandria, Virginia.
The Estate of John E. Stone.
A bequest from the above in 1988.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia (accession no. 88.167).

Literature

Eleanor H. Gustafson, "Museum Accessions" in Antiques, Vol CXXXVI,
no. 1, July 1989, p. 76 (illustrated).

"The Modern World" in Literature: World Masterpieces, Prenticall Hall, New York, 1994, p. 1056 (used as an illustration for Rainer Maria Rilke's L'Intérieur de la Rose [The Inner Rose]).

Viola Hopkins Winner, "Vasary Diary" in ARTnews, Vol. 88, no. 6, Summer 1989, p. 25 (illustrated).

Note

The present work will be offered together with 7 archival letters from 1916-1917. Among them, which are all addressed to Captain William Boissel - the first owner of Roses, five are written by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, while the other two are written by his son, Jean Renoir. Please note the present work was examined on February 4, 2021 by the Renoir Committee in Paris, who has decided to include it in the forthcoming Renoir Digital Catalogue Raisonné, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc. The work will be accompanied by a formal letter from the Wildenstein Plattner Institute confirming both the authenticity of the work, and its future inclusion in the Catalogue Raisonné.

Roses, a previously unrecorded work in the long career of French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, is a wonderful example of spontaneity and color play - a bold, sensual take on still life painting. The work belongs to a series of rose paintings Renoir completed in the later years of his life. This one in particular was painted at the artist’s home in Cagnes in 1917, just two years before his death. According to a letter accompanying the work dated March 26, 1917, the painting was offered directly from Renoir to family friend Captain William Boissel and his wife, Élise. It was delivered by the artist’s son, filmmaker Jean Renoir who, at the time, served as a WWI war pilot under Captain Boissel’s orders in the French Air Force.

The painting, Jean wrote to Captain Boissel, was a mere token of friendship: "several flowers scattered on a canvas” having “no value” and "of little importance." Rather than belittling his father’s work, Jean was more likely referring to his poor health, namely his crippling arthritis, which only allowed him to paint with a paintbrush strapped between his fingers, and “condemned him to produce nothing but such hasty sketches.” In his letter, Jean Renoir also echoes his father’s general attitude towards his late works, many of which were still lifes, which he considered as visual “notes.”

Still life painting was an important subject in Renoir’s oeuvre. He first started to paint flowers on porcelain as an apprentice for the Manufacture de Sèvres. He later exhibited important still lifes influenced by the Academic tradition at the Salon throughout the 1860s, before his official involvement with the Impressionists. Flowers remain a current motif in his later, more mature, paintings. If they are not used as the main subject of the composition, they can be seen as hat decorations, brooches, hidden in a garden, or even used as a backdrop. To Renoir, and to many other artists of the time, still life painting represented financial security as such oils were deeply appreciated by his clientèle, especially abroad. But it was also a deeply personal subject to which Renoir perpetually returned, as it enabled him to paint more freely, and experiment with endless technical and colorful combinations. As he told his friend and student Albert André, “I just let my brain rest when I paint flowers (...) When I am painting flowers, I establish the tones, I study the values carefully (...) The experience I gain in these works, I eventually apply to my (figure) pictures.”

Renoir's still lifes are mostly characterized by (and celebrated for) a rich texture, warm palette and overall informal composition. With the thick, loose brushstrokes used to render the fully bloomed roses, and the thinly painted background revealing the texture of the canvas, Roses shares the overall qualities of improvisation and intuitiveness often associated with watercolor. The deep tones, mostly oscillating between reds and browns, give the work a sense of sensuality, often associated with the flower. It also links Renoir’s painting to the Old Masters he studied and revered, namely Peter Paul Rubens or François Boucher. In fact, Roses channels many aspects of 18th century French painting especially through its feathery, energetic brushwork - a pochade as stated by Jean Renoir in his letter, meaning a quick sketch which instantly captures the colors and the atmosphere of a scene. Through his lush, creamy touch, Renoir essentially dissolves the contours of the composition into one jubilant, abstract playground, thus giving the impression that the painting is being completed before our own eyes. Albert André seemed to agree when commenting on his master’s peculiar technique: “he attacks his canvas with his brush, generally dipped in red-brown, tracing a few very schematic lines to see the proportions of the elements that will constitute his painting. Then, immediately, in pure tones thinned with solvent, as if he were painting a watercolor, he rubs the canvas all over in a rapid movement and you can see appear something imprecise and iridescent, the colors running into one another, something that charms you even before you have begun to get a sense of the image.”

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