Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country

Stills from A Day in the Country

Jean Renoir (1894-1979), the second son of Pierre-Auguste and Aline Charigot, was an important French film director, screenwriter, actor, producer and author. Jean’s film A Day in the Country (1936) is based on a novel by Guy de Maupassant and situated on the River Loing, south of Paris, in 1880, and echoes subjects in his father’s paintings, such as The Swing (1876, Musée d’Orsay) and many scenes of riverside diversion. Maupassant knew Pierre-Auguste and also frequented the Maison Fournaise. In the film, the Dufour family—out from the city for a day on the river—is depicted as charmed but unprepared for the wild freedoms of the countryside. Jean includes himself as the innkeeper. Pierre Lestringuez, the son of Pierre-Auguste’s close friend, plays a priest.

Jean Renoir was critically wounded in World War I and spent valuable time with his aged father after his mother died in 1915. Their conversations helped him write Renoir, My Father, first published in French in 1958. The book remains a valuable source about the life of the artist from his son’s point of view.

Watch A Day in the Country in the Renoir and Friends exhibition galleries and Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937) on December 14.

Renoir and Women Models

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party, on view October 7, 2017-January 7, 2018.

Nadar (Gaspar-Félix Tournachon), Angèle, Modern silver gelatin print from an original of c. 1878

Nadar (Gaspar-Félix Tournachon), Angèle, Modern silver gelatin print from an original of c. 1878, Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques et des Sites, Paris

Renoir celebrated not only natural female beauty but also a woman’s attire and the way in which the line of a dress or shape of a hat could flatter her appearance. The son of a tailor and a dressmaker, he naturally came by this appreciation for line, texture, and style. Friends and mistresses would pose for him as a favor, but he also hired models in Montmartre. Among those who appear in Renoir’s work numerous times in the late 1870s and early 1880s were three actresses—Ellen Andrée, Angèle (who also made a living as a florist), and Jeanne Samary.

Angèle may have modeled for the woman in the lower right corner of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Her name was associated with the painting as early as 1891. It is possible, however, since the woman in the painting also resembles Ellen Andrée, that Andrée and Angèle modeled interchangeably as Renoir worked on his grand composition.

Charles Ephrussi: Collector and Critic

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party, on view October 7, 2017-January 7, 2018.

Critic and collector Charles Ephrussi was vital to Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s emerging reputation at the time leading up to the creation of Luncheon of the Boating Party. Born in Odessa (formerly Russia, now Ukraine) in 1849 to a family of grain exporters who became international bankers, Charles Ephrussi studied there and in Vienna, arriving in Paris in 1871. Almost immediately his travels, studies, and friendships led him to collecting, beginning with Italian Renaissance works, 16th-century tapestries, and Japanese lacquer boxes; then expanding his collecting to include Meissen porcelain and 18th-century French decorative arts, while never neglecting the art of his time. He became an early and significant collector of Impressionist painting, and reviewed the Impressionist exhibitions of 1880 and 1881 for the Gazette des beaux-arts, a publication for which he became its co-owner in 1885 and its director from 1894 until he died in 1905.

Renoir and Friends features works from Charles Ephrussi’s collection, including this painting by Édouard Manet, whom Ephrussi greatly admired. Ephrussi purchased A Bunch of Asparagus for a higher price than the artist expected. In gratitude, Manet created an additional painting of a single stalk of asparagus (also in the exhibition) as a present for Ephrussi, saying, “There was one missing from your bunch.”

Édouard Manet, A Bunch of Asparagus, 1880

Édouard Manet, A Bunch of Asparagus (Une botte d’asperges), 1880. Oil on canvas, 18 1⁄8 × 21 11⁄16 in. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud Cologne