Reviewers of the 1882 Impressionist exhibition were dazzled by this "very appealing" still life of "a certain fruit bowl of 'Peaches,' whose velvety execution verges on a trompe l'oeil." Painted the previous summer at the country house of Renoir’s patron Paul Berard, it is one of two still lifes that feature the same faïence jardinière; the other version also belongs to the Metropolitan Museum (56.218).
The Painting: During his visit to the Berard family at Wargemont near the Normandy coast in the summer of 1881, Renoir painted this still life of peaches that could well have been from an orchard on the estate. Unlike apples and pears, peaches are fragile, bruise easily, and last a short time. In France, they are often placed in a ceramic container or basket with grape leaves or some other foliage to separate them. Here, in diffuse softly colored light, the fruit is piled up to form a generous pyramid in a footed blue and white faïence jardinière and is shown together with, apparently, three pears and an apple. The container was used in the dining room at Wargemont, according to a family member. It is set on the diagonal, on the corner of a table covered with a slightly rumpled white cloth. The background—of elaborate varicolored floral motifs in a stylized pattern with a gold band and a foliate border along the left edge—is, most likely, either a tapestry curtain or screen. It is not difficult to imagine Renoir, who for several years was a regular long-term visitor, seated with the Berards and their guests consuming the ripe fruit at the end of an elaborate meal.
Related works: The artist was evidently pleased with this motif; he repeatedly depicted peaches in a white bowl or on a platter presented on a white cloth in front of a patterned textile. A smaller canvas of about the same date shows seven peaches separated by grape leaves in a fluted white container, with a single peach on the cloth-covered table and a more abstract varicolored background (Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, RF 1963-16). Twenty years or more later, he was still painting the subject, but in a simplified form and with stronger colors (National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970.17.79).
The Provenance: When staying with Paul and Marguerite Berard and not engaged with portraits or decorations for the house, Renoir was free to do what work he wished, including landscapes and still lifes. There is no record that Berard ever owned Still Life with Peaches. (Perhaps one still life of the kind was enough for him: see The Met 56.218.) Presented by the artist at the seventh Impressionist exhibition of 1882, where the velvety quality of the fruit was admired, the work entered the inventory of the artist’s dealer, Durand-Ruel, by 1884. At an auction organized by the gallery’s New York branch in 1887, the canvas was purchased by Théodore Haviland (1842–1919). Théodore and his elder brother Charles Edward Haviland (1839–1921) ran the porcelain manufactory at Limoges founded by their father, New York-born David Haviland (1814–1879). Charles was a patron of Renoir’s, which may be what prompted Théodore’s interest in this painting—notably its depiction of a ceramic dish. Perhaps Théodore also knew that Renoir had been a porcelain painter in his early years.
In 1936, Still Life with Peaches was bought by Stephen C. Clark. The donor, heir to a portion of the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, was a philanthropist and private collector with wide-ranging interests and a trustee of The Met from 1932 to 1945 and from 1950 until 1960. He was the brother of Sterling Clark, who in 1936 already owned a fine Renoir still life, Onions (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, 1955.588), painted in Naples in 1881, and later acquired other examples. Sterling disparaged Stephen’s purchase, claiming that it was inferior to Still Life with Peaches and Grapes (The Met 56.218), which he had seen on the New York art market. Years later, Stephen Clark was a member of the acquisition committee when the museum bought Still Life with Peaches and Grapes. Only he knew that the two works would be reunited when his bequest was received by the museum at the time of his death.
Katharine Baetjer 2021
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Renoir. 81.
[Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York, by 1884–87; stock book E (1880–84), no. 1920, as "Pêches"; stock book H (1884–90), no. 1307, as "Pêches"; sale, "The Durand-Ruel Collection of French Paintings," Moore's Art Galleries, New York, May 5–6, 1887, no. 49, as "Peaches," to Haviland]; Théodore Haviland, Limoges (from 1887); Mme Paul Guillaume, Paris (until 1936; to Seligmann); [Jacques Seligmann, New York, 1936; sold on December 30 to Clark]; Stephen C. Clark, New York (1936–61)
Paris. Salons du panorama de Reischoffen. "7me exposition des artistes indépendants [7th Impressionist exhibition]," ?March 1–31, 1882, no. 159 (as "Les pêches").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Renoir: A Special Exhibition of His Paintings," May 18–September 12, 1937, no. 35 (as "Still Life—Peaches," lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. Duveen Galleries. "Renoir, Centennial Loan Exhibition, 1841-1941," November 8–December 6, 1941, no. 37 (as "Les pêches [Peaches]").
New York. Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies. "Jardin d'été," May 3–31, 1944, unnum. checklist (as "Les Peches [sic]," lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. Century Association. "Paintings from the Stephen C. Clark Collection," June 6–September 28, 1946, unnum. checklist (as "Still Life Peaches").
New York. Paul Rosenberg & Co. "Delacroix and Renoir," February 16–March 13, 1948, no. 17 (as "Les pêches [Peaches]," lent by Mr. Stephen C. Clark).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "A Collectors Taste: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark," January 12–30, 1954, no. 16 (as "Nature morte").
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "Pictures Collected by Yale Alumni," May 8–June 18, 1956, no. 105 (as "Still Life — Peaches," lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. Wildenstein. "Renoir," April 8–May 10, 1958, no. 29 (as "Still Life with Peaches," lent by Mr. Stephen C. Clark).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 1–September 1, 1958, no. 112 (as "Peaches," lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 7–September 7, 1959, no. 88.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paintings from Private Collections: Summer Loan Exhibition," July 6–September 4, 1960, no. 93 (as "Peaches," lent by Stephen C. Clark).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "French Paintings from the Bequest of Stephen Clark," October 17, 1961–January 7, 1962, no catalogue [not mentioned in press release but probably included in exhibition].
Williamstown. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. "The Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings," June 4–September 4, 2006, no. 344.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920," February 4–May 6, 2007, no. 100.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings: The Clark Brothers Collect," May 22–August 19, 2007, no. 344.
Jacques de Biez. "Les petits salons: Les 'Indépendants'." Paris (March 8, 1882), p. 2 [see Ref. Berson 1996].
La Fare. "Exposition des impressionistes." Le Gaulois (March 2, 1882), p. 2.
Armand Sallanches. "L'exposition des artistes indépendants." Journal des arts (March 3, 1882), p. 1 [see Ref. Berson 1996].
Exposition de tableaux de Monet, Pissarro, Renoir & Sisley. Exh. cat., Durand-Ruel. Paris, 1899, unpaginated, no. 76, erroneously dates it 1879.
Josephine L. Allen. "Paintings by Renoir." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 32 (May 1937), p. 112.
James W. Lane. "Thirty-three Masterpieces in a Modern Collection: Mr. Stephen C. Clark's Paintings by American and European Masters." Art News Annual 37 (February 25, 1939), pp. 133, 146, ill.
A Collector's Taste: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen C. Clark. Exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co. New York, 1954, unpaginated, no. 16, ill.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, p. 154, ill.
Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill., calls the container a delftware jardinière of glazed faïence.
Elda Fezzi. L'opera completa di Renoir. [reprint ed., 1981]. Milan, 1972, pp. 109–10, no. 473, ill.
Anthea Callen. Renoir. London, 1978, pp. 72–73, pl. 54, dates it July 1881, when Renoir was in Wargemont.
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, p. 167, ill. in color, suggests that the slightly different positions of the jardinière here and in MMA 56.218 indicate that they were conceived independently, rather than as pendants or earlier and later versions; notes that whereas the concentration of colors here is on red, yellows, and greens, those in the other painting are whites and blues.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 482, ill.
Ruth Berson, ed. "Documentation: Volume I, Reviews and Volume II, Exhibited Works." The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886. San Francisco, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 377, 380–81, 400, 412; vol. 2, pp. 211–12, 232, no. VII-159, ill.
Sarah Lees inThe Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, pp. 315, 341, no. 344.
Richard Rand inThe Clark Brothers Collect: Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings. Exh. cat., Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, Mass., 2006, pp. 262–63 n. 12, ill. pp. 230–31, fig. 192 (color, overall and detail).
Guy-Patrice Dauberville, and Michel Dauberville, with Camille Fremontier-Murphy. Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles. Vol. 1, 1858–1881. Paris, 2007, pp. 136–37, no. 45, ill.
Susan Alyson Stein inThe Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800–1920. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. New York, 2007, pp. 138–39, 252–53, no. 100, ill. (color and black and white).
Susan Alyson Stein inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 155, 298–99, no. 144, ill. (color and black and white).
Stefan Koldehoff. Ich und van Gogh: Bilder, Sammler und ihre abenteuerlichen Geschichten. Berlin, 2015, ill. p. 74 (photograph of Clark's children's playroom with this picture hanging alongside Renoir's "Tilla Durieux" (MMA 61.101.13) and Cézanne's "The Pool at the Jas de Bouffan" (MMA 61.101.5)).
This work is similar to Still Life with Peaches and Grapes (The Met 56.218), which was also painted in 1881 at Wargemont, near Dieppe, the home of Renoir's friend Paul Berard.
The painting’s ownership by the "Haviland collection," knowledge of which originated with Mme Paul Guillaume or Jacques Seligmann, was corroborated by information received from the Durand-Ruel Archives in 2021, which confirms that the painting was purchased by Théodore Haviland at the auction organized by Durand-Ruel Gallery’s New York branch in 1887 (see Provenance).
Mme Paul Guillaume, who owned the present work, also owned another still life depicting peaches by Renoir, the undated picture now in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris (inv. RF 1963 16), which has variously been dated between 1881 and about 1890.
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