Ephrussi’s Invaluable Support

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, Albert Cahen d’Anvers, 1881

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Albert Cahen d’Anvers, 1881, Oil on canvas; 31 1/2 × 25 1⁄8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Of all the people depicted in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, perhaps the most vital to the artist’s emerging reputation at the time was Charles Ephrussi. As a critic, collector, and advocate, Ephrussi offered Renoir valuable support and introduced him to a number of prominent members of society who commissioned him to paint their portraits. Together with the elegant Marguerite Charpentier, Ephrussi influenced the placement of Renoir’s portrait of her with her children (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) in the Salon of 1879, helping to shift Renoir’s career toward critical and commercial success. In advance of the show, Ephrussi had expressed interest in seeing the recent portrait, and Renoir gladly took him to the Charpentiers’ house for a viewing. Ephrussi, who had purchased work by Renoir for his collection, emerged as a vocal advocate for Impressionism in 1880 when he praised Caillebotte’s paintings in the fifth Impressionism exhibition, and, in a review of the sixth, deplored the absence of Manet, Monet, Sisley, and Renoir. Ephrussi used his influence to get Renoir an advantageous hanging at the Salon—that Marguerite Charpentier was a prominent member of Parisian society did not hurt the placement of her portrait either, nor its critical reception.

Charles Ephrussi introduced Renoir to the Cahen d’Anvers, a prominent Jewish family who proceeded to commission portraits from him. In addition to this image of Albert Cahen d’Anvers, Renoir painted Albert’s three nieces, the daughters of his brother Louis, and his wife, Louise. Ephrussi handled for Renoir the submission of these portraits to the Salon of 1881.

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