1841-1919 | French
Au bord de la rivière
(Along the River)
Oil on canvas
"Renoir may be the only great painter who has never painted a sad picture."
- Octave Mirbeau, journalist and art critic
Perhaps more than any other Impressionist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir possessed a deep appreciation for the French landscape, which he beautifully expressed through his art. This oil on canvas, entitled Au bord de la rivière, reveals his mastery over the genre. It is exemplary of the artist's quest to capture an unspoiled vision of the French landscape on canvas, free from any signs of urban life. Instead, he highlights his native France's natural beauty, depicting her with a timeless, picturesque charm that is unchanged by the ravages of time and industrialization. Ambient and atmospheric, the work evokes a harmony and tranquility that defines Renoir's very best landscape scenes.
Some of his most audacious experimentations in light and color were performed in his pure landscapes; free of any narrative or human element, Renoir was able to play freely with rough brushwork and vivid color palettes. Au bord de la rivière is a product of this experimentation. Swirling impastos, expressive brushwork and an unbridled color palette imbue this scene with the sense of impermanence that defined the Impressionist tradition. Brilliant pinks intermingle with yellows, greens and blues in the scene, while Renoir's quick strokes create the feeling of a windy day that is just coming to its end.
It was landscapes such as this, painted en plein air and infused with light, that would eventually give the Impressionists their now-legendary name. Following in the footsteps of Barbizon School artists such as Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet, Renoir and his fellow Impressionists moved from the studio to the countryside in order to conduct their artistic experiments with color and atmosphere. Capturing their most fleeting impressions in each and every brush stroke, the resulting landscapes forever changed the very nature of art.
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 the time during which 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 upon composition, lines and descriptive details, Renoir distinguished himself among his contemporaries. His intuitive use of color and expansive brushstroke, along with an acute attention to his subject, have placed him among the finest painters in history.
The authenticity of the painting has been confirmed by the Wildenstein-Plattner Institute.
Canvas: 18 1/4" high x 22 1/4" wide
Frame: 26" high x 30 1/4" wide
Renoir's Atelier: L'Atelier de Renoir, san Francisco, 1989, by M. Elder, Bernheim-Jeune and A. André, no. 181 (illustrated)
Renoir: Catalogue Raisonné des Tableaux, Pastels, Dessins et Aquarelles, Vol. III, Paris, 2010, by G.P. Dauberville and M. Dauberville, p. 109, no. 1872 (illustrated)
Succession Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (after 1919)
Raphaël Gérard, Paris, 1939
Luciano Pomini, Italy, 1974
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London, June 26, 1984, no. 18
Sotheby's, London, December 3, 1986, no. 13
Christie's, New York, May 1, 1996, no. 132
Private collection, Europe
M.S. Rau, New Orleans