The Daughters of Catulle Mendès, Huguette (1871–1964), Claudine (1876–1937), and Helyonne (1879–1955), 1888
August Renoir (French, 1841–1919)
Oil on canvas; 63 3/4 x 51 1/8 in. (161.9 x 129.9 cm)
The Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Collection, Gift of Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg, 1998, Bequest of Walter H. Annenberg, 2002 (1998.325.3)
Hoping to recapture the success he had achieved with Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children at the Salon of 1879, Renoir asked his friend Catulle Mendès for permission to paint his three daughters. Mendès was a well-known writer and publisher of Symbolist poetry; his companion, Augusta Holmès, a virtuoso pianist and composer, was the mother of these girls.
Renoir sent the portrait to a group exhibition in 1888 that was a critical disaster; the painting was ignored again at the 1890 Salon. It has since emerged, however, as one of Renoir's most impressive works, realized in his new, aggressive coloristic style. In the fluid brushwork and treatment of theme, the portrait pays homage to Fragonard and other eighteenth-century genre painters.