ⓘ La Promenade (Renoir)

                                     

ⓘ La Promenade (Renoir)

La Promenade is an oil on canvas, early Impressionist painting by the French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, created in 1870. The work depicts a young couple on an excursion outside of the city, walking on a path through a woodland. Influenced by the rococo revival style during the Second Empire, Renoirs La Promenade reflects the older style and themes of eighteenth-century artists like Jean-Honore Fragonard and Jean-Antoine Watteau. The work also shows the influence of Claude Monet on Renoirs new approach to painting.

                                     

1. Background

The forest was a popular landscape subject for nineteenth-century French artists, particularly the forest of Fontainebleau. Before Renoir, Claude Monet 1840–1926 painted Bazille and Camille Study for "Dejeuner sur lHerbe" 1865, showing a couple together in the forest. In 1869, Renoir and Monet spent time painting together at La Grenouillere. By 1870, Renoir was living in Louveciennes with his mother. Throughout this decade, the eighteenth-century rococo art movement was back in style and Renoir embraced it. France declared war against Germany on July 19, 1870, starting the Franco-Prussian War. Renoir was conscripted and served four months in the cavalry but never saw combat.

                                     

2. Description

A young man, possibly a canotier, boatman, given his distinctive boater hat, holds the hand of a young woman on a path surrounded by bushes, perhaps on the banks of the Seine, with the implication of an upcoming intimate encounter. The image of lovers walking through a woodland is based on a popular rococo theme. Interpretations of the figure models vary. It is generally believed that the model for the woman in La Promenade was Lise Trehot, Renoirs favorite model and companion during his early Salon period. In the past, it was believed that the man in the painting was landscape painter Alfred Sisley 1839–1899 and the woman was Rapha, a companion of musician Edmond Maitre 1840–1898.

The original title of the painting is unknown. It first received the title La Promenade by unnamed owners of the work when it was put up for sale in 1898. It was not until 1941 that questions about the original title came to light. Renoir was known to strenuously object to sentimental titles applied by others to his work. "Why have they given names to my pictures which never represent the reason I painted such and such a subject? My joy consists in painting, and it has never been in my mind to paint a preconceived subject", Renoir said in his later years. However, Renoir did exhibit a painting with the title of La Promenade in 1876, but that work is now known as Mother and Children.

                                     

3. Critical reception

In a commentary for the exhibition Origins of Impressionism 1994–95, Henri Loyrette writes that La Promenade "succeeds at last in what Renoir had for so long and so vainly sought: the integration of the figure in a landscape". Loyrette notes the influence of Monet in La Promenade and the change in Renoirs style since Les Fiances 1868. The Impressionist influence on Renoir, Perrin Stein writes, led to his increasing use of the high-key palette. Renoirs "lightness and delicacy of touch" here is, according to art historian John House, reminiscent of rococo artist Jean-Honore Fragonard 1732–1806. Critics also view the influence of Jean-Antoine Watteau 1684–1721 on this work, particularly in Renoirs use of the intimate couple in the woods, a motif popularized in scenes found in Watteaus fête galante genre.

                                     

4. Other work

In addition to La Promenade, Renoir explored rococo themes in several subsequent works including The Lovers 1875 and Confidences 1878. In 1883, Renoir created a drawing titled Couple on a Hillside for the French literary review La Vie Moderne based on a variation of La Promenade a decade earlier, but redesigned to show different angles and positions of the original figures.

                                     

5. Provenance

John Walsh, American art historian and former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is credited with helping acquire La Promenade for the Getty collection in 1989.

  • Gustave Goupy
  • Paul Rosenberg
  • British Rail Pension Trustee Company, Ltd.
  • Nate B. and Frances Spingold
  • Bernhard Kohler
  • Paul Cassirer
  • Seito
  • Paul Durand-Ruel