Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French painter who lived from February 25, 1841, to December 3, 1919. During his career, he became known as one of the leading Impressionists who helped to found the genre.
As such, a Renoir oil painting is considered an invaluable piece in any museum’s collection. However, there are some pieces that don’t get the recognition they deserve. These Renoir paintings are some of his underrated gems.
1. The Swing, 1876
The Swing, 1876 is actually a companion piece to another painting Renoir completed called Ball at the Moulin de la Galette. It’s even showcased alongside its sister painting in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France.
Whereas the painting Ball at the Moulin de la Galette is a panoramic piece showing a wide array of subjects revealing, The Swing, 1976 is a much more focused piece of art.
It focuses on a few figures in the foreground including a woman on the swing with two men beside her, one with his back to the viewer of the painting. There is also a child in the bottom left corner of the piece watching the adults interact.
Interestingly, these figures were of models who were in the Ball at the Moulin de la Galette as well. In the background, the viewer can see another party interacting, adding to the busy scene of the painting without taking the focus off of the subjects. The painting is also a showcase of technique such as the way sunlight filters through the trees and the use of posture and expression to convey a story in a still image.
2. Two Sisters, 1881
Painted in 1881, the painting Two Sisters shows an image of two children, one seemingly significantly older than her younger sister. An interesting tidbit about this painting is that despite Renoir himself calling the painting Two Sisters, its first owner, Paul-Durand Ruel, called it On the Terrace.
The painting then came into the possession of Charles Ephrussi where it was featured in Luncheon. By 1993, it finally came into the possession of the Art Institute of Chicago where it resides today.
It’s an especially interesting piece because while many of Renoir’s paintings took on the Impressionist practice of loosely-defined figures, Two Sisters has a more definite construction. This is particularly noticeable in the distinction between the sisters as a focal point and the more vaguely-defined background. This helps draw the eye even more to the subject of the painting.
3. The Large Bathers, 1884-1887
Renoir’s painting The Large Bathers is compositionally interesting and a shift to work that’s more realistic with an Impressionist backdrop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t often get the recognition it deserves as an experimental work from Renoir’s portfolio because it was generally panned by critics after it’s release.
The painting took up three years of Renoir’s time and, as the style suggests, comes from a very experimental period in his career. While the figures themselves are more realistically painted and more well-defined, his Impressionist flair isn’t completely absent. The water and the trees, especially in the deeper background, show hints of his personal flair.
In all, the work shows the influence of a host of other artists such as Rubens and Ingres. This is why the work comes from a chapter in Renoir’s career known as his Ingres Period. However, there are also hints of Antoine Watteau’s style of fêtes galantes. This was a title that was created solely to describe Watteau’s style.
4. Dance at Bougival, 1883
The painting depicts a busy scene with a primary focus on two dancers that are central in the foreground of the painting. However, there are more revelers present in the background. As Renoir often expertly did, the subjects of focus are clearly defined compared to the looser, more Impressionistic definition of the background. This technique works well to give the painting greater depth on a two-dimensional plane.
The painting was actually one of three total pieces crafted for Paul Durand-Ruel in 1883. It is in the collection fo the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.
Renoir was a highly talented artist who had an expansive portfolio of around 4,000 paintings by the time of his death. As such, it’s no wonder that not every single one has received the attention it deserved. These are only four of many paintings to explore by this gifted painter.