La Maternité, 1916
Renoir's paintings have always used the human figure not only as a surface, but also as a mass, a volume sculpted in light whose form is just as expressive as the face upon it. It is therefore unsurprising that late in his life, Renoir, physically feeble though mentally vigorous, began creating sculptures. With the help of assistants the partially paralyzed artist began creating terra-cotta bas-relief and cast bronze sculptures of figures from paintings.
La Maternite was created when the artist was seventy-five years old, in the year following his wife's death. Renoir intended to honor her memory by creating a monument for her grave that did not have any air of sadness, for he always thought of her as a woman of love, and of life. The small bronze was intended as a study for a possible monument, and was taken from a painting of her from 1885. The scene is of her seated in the garden, wearing a straw hat and simple dress, contented and serene as she offers her swollen breast to the plump baby (Pierre Renoir) cradled in her lap. The whole sculpture was not ultimately chosen for the monument, but the bust of Madame Renoir's head was eventually enlarged, cast in bronze and placed over her grave in Essoyes, France.
The sculpture is a casting made post-humously from the original plaster of Maternite created by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in his home in Cagnes sur Mer, France (now the Renoir Museum) in 1916. It was cast under the supervision of Jean Emmanuel Renoir, the artist's great-grandson, and the artistic guidance of Madame Louise Renoir in 1994, at the Vesuvius foundry. The sculpture is inscribed with the artist's signature and stamped Artist's Proof no. 15/35. The original plaster has been donated to "La Fondation Renoir Pour Les Arts" in Edmonton, Canada for display and safekeeping. It stipulates that no further bronze casting will ever be permitted from the original plaster.
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Owner, David Barnett Gallery
Member, Appraiser's Association of America
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, commonly known as Auguste Renor (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919), was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau."
Renoir's paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated color, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects. In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of color, so that his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.
His initial paintings show the influence of the colorism of Eugène Delacroix and the luminosity of Camille Corot. He also admired the realism of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles theirs in his use of black as a color. Renoir admired Edgar Degas' sense of movement. Another painter Renoir greatly admired was the 18th-century master François Boucher.