Rare Renoir Rediscovered at Regional Saleroom
Boningtons Auctioneers are set to make history by becoming the country’s first regional auction house to offer an original work by Pierre Auguste Renoir. The red chalk drawing, depicting a woman and child, will go under the hammer at the firm’s Essex saleroom on June 20th 2012 with an estimate of £20-30,000.
The primary subject of the present picture is one that is extremely typical of Renoir’s work from the mid 1880s as he became engaged with family subjects following the birth of his first child, Pierre, in March 1885. Jean Renoir, Renoir’s second son who was to become a renowned film director, wrote:
"The birth of my brother Pierre was to cause a definite revolution in Renoir's life. The theories aired at the Nouvelles Athènes [a Paris café frequented by the Impressionists] were now made to seem unimportant by the dimples in a baby's bottom. As he eagerly sketched his son... he concentrated on rendering the velvety flesh of the child; and through this very submission, Renoir began to rebuild his inner world" (in Renoir, My Father, New York, 1962, p. 233).
Subsequent to this life-changing moment, Renoir began work on several paintings depicting the mother of Pierre, Aline Charigot, nursing their son and it is extremely likely that the present picture, Femme et Enfant, depicts the same subject and was executed around the same time.
Renoir’s interest in maternal subject matter at this time had been further influenced by a trip to Italy in 1881 during which time he was heavily impressed by the work of the old masters, notably Raphael:
"Raphael's paintings came to represent for him the image of motherhood: in Italy, he remembered 'every woman nursing a child is a Virgin by Raphael.' When he wanted to recreate this theme in his own art, he adopted a Raphael-like combination of closely observed gesture with simple, balanced structure" (J. House, Renoir, exh. cat., The Hayward Gallery, London, 1985, p. 249).
Further interest is added to the work by sketches on the back of the main drawing - a portrait study of a boy’s head, which could also depict Renoir’s son, and a further sketch of a child with two dogs.
Significantly, the work is accompanied by a storage tube bearing the gallery label of one of the most notable dealers of Renoir’s pictures, Paul Durand-Ruel. Durand-Ruel was introduced to Renoir by Claude Monet in the late 1860s and soon began to vigorously acquire the artist’s paintings. The dealer was to become a central figure in the support of young emerging impressionists, not least Renoir for whom Durand-Ruel held the first solo exhibition in 1883 which established him in the art world.
The work also bears the stamp and signature of Paul Guillaume, one of the leading cultural players and art dealer-collectors in Paris in the early twentieth century, and the stamp of Charles Trampus, a notable Parisian photographer and a known collector of Renoir’s pictures.