Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919)
Oil on canvas
60 1/2 x 74 7/8 in. (153.7 x 190.2 cm)
Signed and dated (lower right): Renoir. 78.
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1907 (07.122)
Renoir had participated in the first three Impressionist exhibitions, but in 1879, he declined the fourth and returned to the more traditional annual Salon. Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children was one of the paintings he exhibited there, to great acclaim. It had been commissioned by the publisher Georges Charpentier, whose stable of authors included Gustave Flaubert, the Goncourt brothers, and Émile Zola.
Wearing an elegant Worth gown, Marguérite Charpentier sits beside her three-year-old son Paul. Following the fashion of the time, his hair has not yet been cut and his clothes match those of his sister Georgette, who perches on the family dog. Pleased with the painting, Madame Charpentier used her influence to ensure that it was hung in a choice spot at the Salon and introduced Renoir to her friends, several of whom commissioned work from him.