Celebrated as one of the most important and recognizable painters of the Impressionist movement, Pierre-Auguste Renoir is best known for his sophisticated portraits and sumptuous nudes. With luminous color and great, energetic brush strokes, Renoir captured the bustling world in which he lived with the ability of a true artistic genius.
Born in 1841, Renoir began painting as a young boy at the age of only 13. As a teen, the burgeoning artist apprenticed with a painter of porcelain and studied in great length the masterpieces of the Musée du Louvre. At the age of 21, Renoir decided to continue his artistic training at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts and later became instrumental in forming the group known as the French Impressionists.
Although Renoir began exhibiting his Impressionist works in Paris in 1864, he did not gain widespread recognition until the inaugural Impressionist exhibition in 1874, where his lively depictions of the French bourgeoisie and focus on strong underlying composition set him apart from his contemporary artists. Nearly a decade later Renoir embarked on a trip to Italy, where he painted landscapes almost exclusively, that led him to develop the mature style that we know today. A solo exhibition in 1883 at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in Paris solidified Renoir’s position as an artistic great of his day, and by the turn of the century, Renoir enjoyed nothing short of international acclaim.
It seems that Renoir himself was the first to undervalue his landscape paintings. Although the artist painted en plein air landscapes (and seascapes) throughout his career, portraits and figural works heavily dominated his submissions to the Impressionist exhibitions and annual salons. Perhaps because these works were more popular with critics and patrons, his landscape paintings were very rarely exhibited during his own lifetime.
In the present work, La Route Bordée d’Arbes, Renoir depicts a country road, bathed in sunlight and lined by verdant, swaying trees. The charming canvas is filled with fluid, confident brushstrokes, which lend a sense of movement to the lush foliage, while a small figure, illustrated with only minimal pigment, strolls peacefully down the lane.
Historically, Renoir’s landscapes have not received notoriety equal to that of his figurative work; however, one may argue that in paintings such as the present example, the viewer experiences Renoir’s raw artistic genius. As the tree-lined road recedes into space, Renoir’s unwavering dedication to the use of strong line and composition are clearly visible. Meanwhile, the artist’s energetic, swooping brushstrokes imbue the canvas with a sense of freedom that is not conveyed in the studio portraits for which he is best known.
Every year, more and more works by the legendary Renoir exit the market and enter private and museum collections around the world. His paintings already grace the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Musée d’Orsay, just to name a few. As the number of works by Renoir available for purchase steadily declines, the value of the artist’s famous landscape paintings has consistently risen over the past decade (particularly during the last five years). In fact, Rochers de l’Estaque, a landscape dated 1882, sold for a $1,588,874 at Christie’s London in 2016—a record-breaking amount for a landscape by Renoir!
Needless to say, to own an original oil on canvas by Pierre-Auguste Renoir is to own a masterpiece and a bit of art history itself.
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