Aline Charigot spent her childhood in the village of Essoyes, but came to Paris to join her mother in 1874. She probably met Renoir in 1879, when she was 20 years old. She was younger than Renoir by 18 years, entering his life as he was beginning to receive the recognition and commissions necessary to stabilize his career. They married in 1890 and had three sons. According to their son Jean’s descriptions of his mother, she was the ideal partner for his father: a generous companion who never lost her love of the countryside, and when they acquired their property in Cagnes, was ready to roll up her sleeves and work the land. She served as a regular model for her husband, and, according to Jean, all his father’s paintings of women after he met Charigot resemble her to some degree.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Young Woman Reading an Illustrated Journal (Jeune femme lisant un journal illustré), c. 1880. Oil on canvas, 18 1/4 × 22 in. Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, Museum Appropriation Fund
Aline Charigot is the young woman reading a journal in this intimate scene that reflects her interest in fashion, as well as her close relationship with the artist.
Edgar Degas, Portrait of Ellen Andrée (Portrait d’Ellen Andrée), 1876. Monotype in black and brown ink on ivory paper, 8 1/2 × 6 1/4 in. The Art Institute of Chicago
Ellen Andrée, born Hélène André around 1855, started acting in 1879. She was a favorite of Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, using her talents as an actress to play many roles as a model. A lively young woman, she joined the artists’ circle at the Café Nouvelle Athenes. In the early 1880s she gave up modeling entirely and in 1887 she joined a naturalist theater, the Teâtre-Libre. Her career took her to the United States, Argentina, and Russia. She married Henri Julien Dumont, a painter who specialized in flowers. Degas made several portraits of her and she modeled as the dissolute woman in his famous painting In a Café (L’Absinthe) (Musée d’Orsay, 1975-76), where she stares vacantly at the glass on the table in front of her.