Jeune filles au piano

Jeune filles au piano – Young Girls at the Piano – 1892 – Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1841 – 1919 was a French artist and a leading painter in the development of the impressionist style. At the age of 21 he began studying art formally. He had his first success with “ Lise with a Parasol “ in 1868, but recognition was slow in coming.

 In 1874, having joined forces with Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and several others, he entered six paintings in the first Impressionist Exhibition. Renoir’s work was well received, though the exhibition as a whole was not successful and two of his works were shown in London. He attracted portrait commissions, continued to exhibit and by 1879 age 38 he was a successful and fashionable painter.

 In 1890 age 49 he married Aline and Renoir’s life became more serene. He painted many scenes of his wife and children depicting family life. This period of his life is sometimes referred to as his “ Pearly Period “, when colours become softer-keyed producing  silvery hues and a wonderful “pearly” transparency of flesh tones.

 The “Young Girls at the Piano” belongs to this period. Renoir received a commission from the French government for a painting to hang in the Museum of Living Artists, the Luxembourg Palace. Wishing to create a work that was truly representative of him, Renoir produced six almost identical versions – four in oil, one in pastel and an oil sketch. The painting chosen is thought to be the least successful of the set as the style is quite conventional and the faces somewhat studied. For modern tastes, the version probably painted first with its looser, blotchy applications of colour is perhaps favourite. The subtle changes in detail, poses and background between the versions can be seen in the illustrations. 

To quote Renoir during this period, “For me painting must be agreeably joyful and pretty – yes, pretty! There are enough depressing things in life without our creating still more”.

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