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Pierre-Auguste Renoir at the Museum Barberini

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | The Pear Tree, 1877

In the early 1860s Pierre-Auguste Renoir had studied in the Paris atelier of Swiss history painter Charles Gleyre.
Together with his fellow pupils Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley, he belonged to the nucleus of the group that would become known as Impressionists in the mid-1870s.
Renoir’s early experiments with painting in the open air were decisive for the development of his visual language. In a departure from traditional methods, he worked en plein air not merely for studies, but also, like Monet, in order to create independent, finished works.

Although he was accepted to the Paris Salon in 1864 and 1868 and although progressive critics lauded the freshness and directness of his landscapes, he sold few pictures until the early 1870s.

As with many of his colleagues, the first of the eight Impressionist exhibitions, presented in 1874, constituted a turning point in his career and helped him gain broader public recognition and financial security.

The Pear Tree was painted in 1877 in Louveciennes, a small town in the department of Yvelines about twenty kilometers west of Paris, a region where artists such as Monet, Sisley, and Camille Pissarro also frequently worked.
The twisted tree trunk in the right foreground directs the viewer’s gaze to the center of the composition, where shadows of unmixed black set a strong accent.
The wind-blown foliage is rendered in thick, staccato brushstrokes of glowing yellow and orange, contrasting starkly with the fresh blue of the sky and the rich green of the meadow. With its brilliant colors and loose brushwork, the composition epitomizes the mature phase of Impressionism that Renoir had initiated in the mid-1870s along with other artist colleagues such as Claude Monet.| Source: © Museum Barberini

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Study of a Woman, 1893

Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted numerous portraits of his son, Pierre, who was born in 1885, and in the late 1880s he was commissioned by the growing circle of collectors of Impressionist painting to create portraits of their children.
The compactness of the figure is based on a type of portrait from the Italian Renaissance.| Source: © Museum Barberini

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Shaded Path, 1872

Images of forest paths and wooded thickets had already played an important role in the painting of the Barbizon School.
Paths with overhanging trees constituted a kind of natural "interior" and allowed the precursors of Impressionist landscape painting such as Camille Corot and Charles-François Daubigny to explore subtleties of light and shadow by rendering the coloristic effects of sunlight through thick foliage.
In the 1860s Pierre-Auguste Renoir followed in their footsteps, traveling to the forest of Fontainebleau south of Paris to paint landscapes en plein air.
His first depiction of the motif known in French as sous-bois ("undergrowth") was created there in the summer of 1866 and still shows strong stylistic affinities to Realism (The Painter Le Cœur Hunting in the Fontainebleau Forest, Museu de Arte de São Paulo).

In Shaded Path, the narrative element is diminished in favor of the detailed observation of nature.
The path, composed as a triangle, leads the viewer’s gaze into the center of the pictorial space, where an artist can be seen at work.
The two figures in the distance, rendered in rapid daubs of paint, blend into the surrounding vegetation and is discernable only upon careful viewing.
The diagonal rows of closely planted tree trunks accentuate the perspectival pull into depth and immerse the viewer in the composition, evoking a sense of stillness and seclusion.
The sunlit foliage in the center of the image is suggested by thick daubs of glowing yellow-green, accentuated with strokes of unmixed red.
This free handling of paint is typical of Renoir’s approach to the depiction of paths and forests, where he sought to model the varying textures of ground, tree trunks, and foliage with tactile appeal.| Source: © Museum Barberini

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Road to Berneval, 1880

Pierre-Auguste Renoir applied the paint in thin layers on a white, primed canvas. As in a watercolor, the light comes from the priming.
The road guides the gaze like a funnel of light to a group of three figures in blue working clothes who are coming from the harvesting of mussels.
Mussels from the coast of Normandy were sold in Paris as "oysters of the poor".| Source: © Museum Barberini

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Path in the Forest, 1874-1877

In Path in the Forest, painted between 1874 and 1877, Pierre-Auguste Renoir used a pictorial formula closely related to Shaded Path of 1872.
Here, too, a path overhung with trees functions as a central visual axis, an aisle leading to the center of the pictorial space.
Now, however, darker tonalities are exchanged for the glowing palette of Renoir’s mature Impressionist style: fresh nuances of bright green and blue are punctuated by daubs of pure white, evoking the impression of luminous flecks of sunlight on the lush foliage.
The course of the narrow forest path is marked only by a single figure, who blends almost seamlessly into the surrounding vegetation; only the red accents at the figure’s feet attract the viewer’s gaze.

Here, as in many Impressionist paintings, the forest path does more than merely draw the eye into a compositional space.
Rather, it symbolically invites the viewer to engage in contemplation of a summer day under the open sky.
The young figure strolling through the landscape serves as a metaphorical proxy for the viewer - an approach typical of the Impressionists, who continually sought to elicit a sensual, bodily response in their representations of the landscape.
This symbolic fusion of humanity and nature appears in similarly programmatic fashion in another painting by Renoir that is closely related in style: Woman with a Parasol in a Garden (1875), now in the collection of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.| Source: © Museum Barberini

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Woman with a Parasol in a Garden, 1875 | Museo Nacional Thyssen Bornemisza Madrid

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Landscape of Cagnes, ca. 1900

Pierre-Auguste Renoir recorded the surroundings of his Mediterranean home in a sketch-like work.
In addition to accents in white and bright yellow, the priming of the canvas shows through in many areas, contributing to the luminosity of the scene.
The quick brushwork lends an unexpectedly dynamic force to the unspectacular motif in this small format.| Source: © Museum Barberini

Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Pomegranates, 1913

Pomegranates and figs are arranged decoratively on a white cloth. The contrast between the complementary colors red and green make them shine.
The crowded pictorial space seems to pulse through the use of dynamic brushwork.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir transferred the experiences of plein-air painting to all genres: nothing is certain, and everything is sensation.| Source: © Museum Barberini