Aline Charigot: Renoir’s Ideal Partner

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.

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, c. 1880

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 and Ellen Andrée

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.

Edgar Degas, Portrait of Ellen Andrée, 1876

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.

The Ambitious Artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Self-Portrait, c. 1875

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Self-Portrait (Autoportrait), c. 1875. Oil on canvas, 15 3⁄8 × 12 7⁄16 in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA

In a rare self-portrait, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) captures the ambitious young man that he was in his mid-thirties, struggling to make a living as a painter. In the early to mid-1870s, Renoir had a hard time selling his work. His style, which we find so alive and full of light―was considered loose and unfinished by many established critics. It was an arduous time for the avant-garde Impressionists (and for Renoir in particular, who was one of the founding members of the group), strained by lack of sales an deplorably low prices. While in retrospect it was the great decade of Impressionism, when the group was at its most cohesive, by its end there were challenges to this cohesion. Renoir shifted his sights from the small independent Impressionist group exhibitions to the huge official state-run Salon, though it may have meant unfortunate placement and the certainty of being exhibited among pieces by painters who subscribed to traditional subjects and established techniques. Although some of Renoir’s paintings had been accepted at the Salon in previous years, this had not resulted in any significant increase in sales or recognition. But Renoir was keenly aware of the value of personal contacts and social connections, and carefully cultivated the support of writers who understood and praised his work and collectors who purchased, and soon, in greater numbers, commissioned portraits and decorations.

Just a few years later, as he approached his fortieth birthday, he determined not to put off any longer the challenge of a complex group composition to be painted on the terrace of the Maison Fournaise: Luncheon of the Boating Party.