1841-1919 | French
Les voiliers au bord de mer
(Sailboats by the Sea)
Signed “Renoir” (lower left)
Oil on canvas
This breezy shore scene is an outstanding example of the legendary Pierre-Auguste Renoir's distinctive style. With his vivid palette and fluid brushstrokes, Renoir beautifully captures the ephemerality and tranquility of the harbor scene in Brittany. Bringing together bold complementary colors, the work embodies the fresh spontaneity of Renoir's finest plein air paintings and reveals the Impressionist legend’s mastery over light and atmosphere. The soft brushwork used to render the foliage, as well as the work's rich orchestration of contrasting and complementary hues place this work among Renoir's finest landscapes.
Renoir’s love of light, color and movement are all clearly evident in Les voiliers au bord de mer. Swirling impastos and the artist’s lively and light brushwork imbue this scene with a sense of animated impermanence, conveying the effect of a windy day by the shore. The trees and foliage seemingly dance in the gentle breeze, an effect executed with a discerning blend of soft, swift strokes and heavier, more broad applications of luminous color. Renoir also instills this scene with a distinctive modernity by including bright white sailboats and the far-off, loosely rendered figures of ladies with parasols strolling by the seaside, revealing the Impressionists’ fascination with the modern lives and activities of the leisure class.
Executed with fluid brushwork and infused with brilliant light, it is landscapes such as this that are considered the keystone of his entire oeuvre. His broad, juxtaposed strokes of yellows, pinks, greens and blues bring a play of light to the lush foliage and shining sea, while his bold color palette stands as a testament to his lifelong appreciation for the beauty of nature.
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.
Canvas: 11 3/4" high x 15 3/4" wide
Frame: 20 1/4" high x 23 3/8" wide
Tableaux, pastels & dessins de Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1918, no. 433, p. 109 (illustrated)
Renoir catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, Paris, 2010, by Guy-Patrice & Michael Dauberville, vol. III, no. 1903, p. 127 (illustrated)