Auguste Renoir (1841 -1919)
Nude in the Sunlight
Oil on canvas
H. 81.4 cm ; W. 64.9 cm
Rodin believed that Van Gogh and Renoir were the two greatest painters of their generation.The sculptor was particularly attached to this painting that he was able to purchase from Bernheim-Jeune in 1910, but which he had wanted since 1898. It dates from the period when Renoir, heedful of Ingres and Raphael’s teachings, began distancing himself from Impressionism and giving priority back to line and contours.
Handled like a sketch, this seated young woman attests to the distinctive sculptural qualities found in the painter’s finest nudes. The visible juxtaposed dabs of pure colour form a sort of halo, or mandorla, around the voluptuous female nude. The soft modelling of the body seems to have emerged out of a hazy background, establishing an effect of contrast that could not fail to please Rodin.
A photograph taken at the time shows the painting hanging on the wall – a rare occurrence – above Rodin’s desk in the Hôtel Biron. The sculptor loved to show it to people and comment upon it: “The torso of this young woman is pure sculpture. What a marvel!” (Tirel, 1923). “Look at this Nude by Renoir, look at the quality of this flesh; it shines in the night: it’s a real Praxiteles!” (Revers, 1911).