Renoir likely painted this work in his studio, posing his model in a wicker chair and relying on studies he had made on the Normandy coast to furnish the beach scene behind her. Stylistically, it reflects the impact of Renoir’s trip to Italy in 1881–82, which inspired him to unite the “grandeur and simplicity” he admired in Renaissance art with the luminosity of Impressionism. His new approach, which he called his “dry” manner, is evident in the sitter’s face, with its carefully drawn features and smooth handling of paint. The medley of quick strokes in the background, however, displays the freer technique of Renoir’s earlier years.
Credit Line:H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
The Painting: Renoir spent the late summer of 1883 in Normandy and on the Channel Island of Guernsey painting landscapes with and without figures on site. Probably upon his return to Paris, he engaged a model to sit for this picture in his studio: he studied her features closely before sketching the diaphanous background, in which the cliffs are vaguely reminiscent of some of his recent sea views. The style combines Impressionist technique with what he called his new “dry manner,” which is here reflected in his tighter, more classicizing approach to the carefully drawn face, with the eyebrows, lids, and other details highly finished. The composition is traditional as well, a three-quarter-length figure, head turned outward, seated in a chair at a right angle to the picture plane. Renoir may have had in mind various Italian Renaissance portraits that he had seen during his travels in 1881–82. His dealer Durand-Ruel bought the canvas in December 1883 as Jeune femme tricotant au bord de la mer (Young Woman Knitting by the Sea). We might ask whether the artist designed it to appeal to a (male) client for whom it would call to mind the pleasure of informal visits with ladies of fashion on the beach at one of the new resorts.
Resorts: The fishing villages of Normandy were first developed as holiday destinations in the 1860s, when the railroad reached the coast at Trouville and nearby Deauville received several visits from the emperor, Napoleon III. A six-hour journey by train brought the haute bourgeoisie (upper middle class) of Paris to enjoy the sea air, and bathing when weather permitted. Men and women visited the beaches in formal summer attire to walk, gather in groups, and, seated on wicker chairs or on the sand, watch intrepid swimmers and children at play. Eugène Boudin introduced the new genre of beach scenes with elegant visitors, while both Manet and Monet occasionally painted such subjects. The elaborate modern costume and bonnet of Renoir’s model in By the Seashore is typical, although many women also wore veils to keep the sun and the sand from their faces.
The Model: The identity of the young woman, pale and slender with dark brown hair, is unknown. She has been called Aline Charigot (White 1985), Renoir’s full-figured, fair-haired future wife and the mother of his three children, but this suggestion is untenable. The New York branch of Durand-Ruel eventually sold the picture to Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer: it was the only Renoir the couple ever owned.
Katharine Baetjer 2021
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Renoir. 83.
[Durand-Ruel, Paris, bought from artist on January 9, 1884, as "Young Woman Knitting by the Sea"]; P. de Kuyper, The Hague (until 1891; sold on October 14 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, later New York, 1891–92; sold on April 2, 1892 for $1,800 to Lambert]; Catholina Lambert, Paterson, N. J. (1892–99; sold on February 28, 1899 to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1899, stock no. 2123; sold on March 10, for $4,000 to Havemeyer]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1899–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 168–69, ill.)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 101 (as "By the Seashore") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 181].
Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Museum of Art. "Manet and Renoir," November 29, 1933–January 1, 1934, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Renoir: A Special Exhibition of His Paintings," May 18–September 12, 1937, no. 40.
Worcester Art Museum. "The Art of the Third Republic: French Painting 1870–1940," February 22–March 16, 1941, no. 10.
Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 41.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat.
Bronx County Courthouse. "Paintings from the Metropolitan, Pinturas del Metropolitano," May 12–June 13, 1971, no. 7.
London. Hayward Gallery. "The Impressionists in London," January 3–March 11, 1973, no. 51.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 70.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 70.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "From Delacroix to Matisse," March 15–May 10, 1988, no. 23.
Moscow. Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. "From Delacroix to Matisse," June 10–July 30, 1988, no. 23.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A460.
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "La collection Havemeyer: Quand l'Amérique découvrait l'impressionnisme...," October 20, 1997–January 18, 1998, no. 11 (as "Femme assise au bord de la mer").
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Impressionists by the Sea," July 7–September 30, 2007, no. 64.
Washington. Phillips Collection. "Impressionists by the Sea," October 20, 2007–January 13, 2008, no. 64.
Hartford. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. "Impressionists by the Sea," February 9–May 11, 2008, no. 64.
Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 12–October 17, 2021, unnumbered cat.
Osaka. Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," November 13, 2021–January 16, 2022.
Tokyo. National Art Center. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," February 9–May 30, 2022.
Albert C. Barnes and Violette De Mazia. The Art of Renoir. New York, 1935, pp. 77–78, 97, 274, 407–08, 455, no. 133, ill., note the unconventional relationship between figure and background.
Charles Terrasse. Cinquante portraits de Renoir. Paris, 1941, unpaginated, pl. 24.
Michel Drucker. Renoir. Paris, 1944, pp. 62, 203–4, no. 70, colorpl. 70, mentions that the model seems to have posed in several of his other paintings of the same period.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures, French Impressionists: Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Boudin. Vol. 27, Album 51, New York, 1951, unpaginated, ill. (color).
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 83.
A. Hyatt Mayor. "The Gifts that Made the Museum." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 16 (November 1957), ill. p. 96.
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, pp. 155–57, ill., believe that it was probably painted during Renoir's stay in Guernsey in September 1883.
Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill., calls it an early example of Renoir's "dry" manner, combining loose brushstrokes with smooth passages such as the face and hands.
François Daulte. Auguste Renoir: Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint. Vol. 1, Figures. Lausanne, 1971, unpaginated, no. 448, ill.
James F. Pilgrim. Paintings from the Metropolitan, Pinturas del Metropolitano. Exh. cat., Bronx County Courthouse. New York, 1971, unpaginated, no. 7.
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Collection. Vol. 5, Paintings, Drawings. [New York], 1973, p. 191, notes that the handling of the paint is much tighter than in previous paintings.
John Rewald. "The Impressionist Brush." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 32, no. 3 (1973/1974), pp. 36, 54, no. 23, ill. (overall and color detail), argues that the combination of a linear approach and a painterly style is the result of Renoir's crisis around 1883, when he felt the need to incorporate the discipline of old masters into his Impressionist technique.
Anthea Callen. Renoir. London, 1978, pp. 20, 84, pl. 65, affirms that it was doubtless painted in Renoir's studio after his return to Paris from Guernsey.
Barbara Ehrlich White. Renoir: His Life, Art, and Letters. New York, 1984, pp. 133-34, ill. (color), identifies the model as Renoir's future wife, Aline Charigot, and erroneously states that she is sewing.
Charles S. Moffett. Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pp. 168–69, ill. (color), believes that it was probably painted at Guernsey; argues that Renoir may have painted the figure first and only later added the scenic view as background decoration, as was his custom in the 1880s and 1890s, noting that the background in such paintings is reminiscent of Italian frescoes and Watteau's landscape settings.
Frances Weitzenhoffer. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986, pp. 135, 151, 226–27, 257, no. 98, ill.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 483, ill.
Colin B. Bailey in Colin B. Bailey. Renoir's Portraits: Impressions of an Age. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. New Haven, 1997, p. 192, remarks that Georges-Marie-Jean-Hugues Durand-Ruel, the youngest son of Paul-Marie-Joseph, was responsible for selling this painting to Louisine Havemeyer.
Colin B. Bailey inRenoir Landscapes: 1865–1883. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2007, p. 73, asserts that it was inspired by Renoir's trip to the Normandy coast and the Channel Islands, commenting that this picture and "Seated Bather" (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.) are "the most important figure paintings undertaken in Paris after his return".
John House. Impressionists by the Sea. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2007, pp. 99, 140–41, no. 64, ill. pp. 12, 114, 140 (color, overall and detail), asserts that it is not a portrait, but depicts the generic figure of a seaside tourist, probably studied from a model in the studio.
Rebecca A. Rabinow inMasterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 156, 299, no. 145, ill. (color and black and white).
Colin B. Bailey inMasterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein and Asher Ethan Miller. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, p. 122, fig. 92.
Guy-Patrice Dauberville and Michel Dauberville. Renoir: Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles. Vol. 2, 1882–1894. Paris, 2009, p. 240, no. 1063, ill.
Anne Distel. Renoir. New York, 2010, pp. 184, 186, 229, colorpl. 172, states that the fact that Renoir sold the picture to Durand-Ruel in early 1884 promotes the idea that the image is of a fantasy figure; notes that Durand-Ruel paid 1,000 francs for it that year.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 445, no. 386, ill. pp. 391, 445 (color).
Laura D. Corey and Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen. "Visions of Collecting." Making The Met, 1870–2020. Ed. Andrea Bayer with Laura D. Corey. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2020, pp. 139, 265 n. 48.
Katharine Baetjer inEuropean Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. South Brisbane, 2021, pp. 203, 232, ill. p. 202 (color).
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