1841-1919 | French
Après le bain
(After the bath)
Signed “Renoir” (lower left)
Sanguine and white chalk on paper mounted on canvas
For Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Impressionism's pre-eminent figure painter, depicting the nude was an exercise in bringing the canvas to life. He once said, “I look at a nude, I see myriads of minuscule shades. I have to find those which will make the flesh on my canvas come to life and resonate.” This compelling portrait by Renoir entitled Après le bain presents the nude figure of a woman in a serene, private moment, absorbed in the task of drying herself after a bath. The artist’s mastery of light and shading is incredible, achieving a sense of vitality in this otherwise ordinary scene.
Renoir is celebrated for his figural work, especially his Rubenesque female nudes, however, it was not until the artist was in his forties that he depicted the nude with any frequency. In 1881, Renoir traveled to Italy, where he studied the works of the Renaissance masters and the ancient art of Pompeii and Rome. Upon his return to France, the nude became his favored subject, and he used the motif to combine the spontaneity of Impressionism with the solid modeling of classical painting. Renoir’s medium here, sanguine, a reddish-brown chalk, was used extensively in the Renaissance by Leonardo (who employed it in his sketches for the Last Supper), Michelangelo and Raphael. Its warm hue lends itself well to depicting flesh, and the chalk drawing allows for a greater focus on line, form and texture in a departure from the aspects of color and light that so often preoccupied the Impressionists. Après le bain conveys the impression of arrested motion with perfect naturalness, deftly capturing the moment before the elegant lines of the sitter's form change position.
The sitter is almost certainly Gabrielle Renard, the nanny to Renoir’s children and a frequent model for the artist. Gabrielle was the cousin of Renoir’s wife, Aline, and came to Montmartre to work for the family at the age of 16. She developed a strong bond with the family and became a favorite subject for Renoir, appearing in several of his most important works, including his 1911 Gabrielle with a Rose (Musée d'Orsay). When Renoir began to suffer from severe rheumatoid arthritis that would eventually leave him unable to walk and scarcely able to grasp a paintbrush, it was Gabrielle that would assist the artist by positioning the paintbrush between his crippled fingers.
Born in Limoges, France in 1841, Renoir began his career as an apprentice to a painter of porcelain wares. He later moved to Paris at the age of 21, enrolling at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts. It was here, while studying under Charles Gleyre, that Renoir attained a tremendous appreciation for the academic style of painting, a quality that would last throughout his career. This was also when he met Claude Monet and several other classmates, with whom he would later form the Impressionists.
Working closely with Monet, Renoir began experimenting with the portrayal of light and its effect on his canvases. The youngest member of the Impressionist movement, an astute Renoir recognized how a subject was constantly changing due to the dynamic effects of light on color. Relying heavily upon his academic training that focused on composition, lines and descriptive details, Renoir distinguished himself among his contemporaries. His intuitive use of color and expansive brushstroke, along with acute attention to his subject, have placed him among the finest painters in history.
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity and will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Pierre-Auguste Renoir from the Wildenstein Plattner Institute.
Canvas: 43 1/2" high x 35 1/2" wide
Frame: 57 3/4" high x 49 1/4" wide
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on January 25, 1899)
J. Pereire Collection, France (1966)
Sam Salz, New York (before 1981)
Claus Virch, Paris
French Compagny, Inc., New York
Larry Silverstein, New York (circa January 1987)
Le Clos de Sierne Gallery, Geneva
Galerie Heyram, Paris (October 1987)
M.S. Rau, New Orleans
B. Schneider, Renoir, Berlin, 1957, p. 95 (illustrated in color, p. 83)
M. Gauthier, Renoir, Paris, 1958, p. 83 (illustrated in color; erroneously dated '1916' and titled 'Woman in her toilet')
F. Fosca, Renoir, L'homme et son obra, Paris, 1961, p. 280 (illustrated, p. 95; erroneously dated 'about 1890' and titled 'After the Bath')
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Renoir, Catalog raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2010, vol. III, p. 515-516, no. 2597 (illustrated, p. 515)
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, Watercolors, Pastels and Drawings by Renoir, April 1921, p. 3, no. 53 (erroneously dated '1906' and titled 'Baigneuse s'essuie').
Kunsthalle, Basel, Meisterzeichnungen französischer Künstler von Ingres bis Cézanne , June-August 1935, p. 30, no. 223.
Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, Exhibition of “La Gazette des Beaux-Arts”, Renoir, The sculpted work, the engraved work, watercolors and drawings, October-November 1935, p. 30, no. 22.
Musée national d'art moderne, Paris, From Impressionism to the present day , June 1958, no. 175 (illustrated, pl. 9).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1966-1973.