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"Renoir Landscapes 1865-1883"
2007-02-21 until 2007-05-20
National Gallery
London, , UK United Kingdom

Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted landscapes throughout his life, but during the first two decades of his long career they played an essential role as an area of experimentation and enabled the artist to hone his painting skills. Now, for the first time, an exhibition examines the development of Renoir‚s landscape art, in the first major show in the UK devoted to the artist for more than 20 years, sponsored by Ernst & Young. Renoir Landscapes brings together some 70 paintings from across Europe and the USA and from as far afield as Tokyo (Laundry Boat on the Seine, near Paris, Morohashi Museum of Modern Art) and Sao Paulo (Jules le Coeur Walking in the Fontainbleau Forest with his Dogs, Museu de Arte), with many works from private collections.

Renoir Landscapes begins in 1865, when the young artist had met and was working beside Monet, Cézanne and Sisley. Paintings such as A Clearing in the Woods (1865, Detroit Institute of Arts) and Bathing at La Grenouillère (1868-9, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) show his remarkable ability to emulate the technical and stylistic innovations of his fellow Impressionists and then turn them to his own uses.

By the 1870s Renoir had defined his distinctive quick, silvery brushstroke and began to explore colour and new kinds of spatial structure in order to achieve painterly freedom - perhaps more audaciously than that of any of his Impressionist colleagues - in works such as The Harvesters (Private Collection) and the rarely seen Duck Pond (Private Collection). In the early 1880s Renoir travelled to Italy and North Africa. In Algiers new intensities of sunlight and colour had a profound impact on him, as seen in the almost abstract foliage of Banana Plantation (Musée d‚Orsay) and Le Jardin d‚Essai à Alger/The Test Gardens (MGM Mirage Corporate Collection, Las Vegas). Renoir's love of Venice is displayed in Piazza San Marco (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts), and the beginnings of his break with Impressionism can be observed in the 1881 work Vesuvius (Bay of Naples), Morning (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

The exhibition ends in 1883 with a selection of the vibrant oils he executed that summer on a visit to Guernsey, including Fog on Guernsey, a new acquisition of the Cincinnati Art Museum. >From that point on, Renoir increasingly concentrated on figure painting; he would intermittently paint landscapes in later years, but never again were they so innovative and experimental as the canvases of those first formative decades.

Arranged chronologically across four rooms, the paintings in Renoir Landscapes have been carefully chosen and many are among Renoir‚s finest landscapes. The exhibition includes beguiling Impressionist images of sunny outdoor socialising in the Parisian suburbs, such as Monet painting in his Garden in Argenteuil (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT), and the National Gallery's own Boating on the Seine/The Skiff (NG 6478), a perennial favourite with visitors.

From images of his beloved Paris (Garden in the Rue Cortot, Montmartre, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh) to cityscapes of the exotic places he visited (Venice, the Doge‚s Palace, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA), from pure landscapes (Landscape at Wargemont, The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio) to stormy sea views (Seascape, The Art Institute of Chicago), the exhibition shows the range and variety of Renoir‚s ever-sensitive response to the natural environment.

Renoir has long been popular with the general public ˆ now Renoir Landscapes aims to draw attention once again to the audacious and most thrillingly experimental aspects of his early work.

After London, the exhibition travels to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (8 June - 9 September 2007) and to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (30 September 2007 - 6 January 2008).

IMAGE
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
'Garden in the Rue Cortot, Montmartre', 1876.
© Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
Acquired through the generosity of Mrs. Alan M. Scaife, inv. 65.35.


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