Following Renoir's critical period of experimentation in the mid-1880s, the artist sought to strike a balance between the concerns of Impressionism and older artistic traditions. As Barbara E. White has discussed:
During the first decade of the twentieth century, Renoir's style continued to develop as it had during the previous decade in an integration of classicism and Impressionism. Tangible forms are surrounded by a warm atmosphere created by expressive brushstrokes of vibrant color and sparkling light. Classical feelings of weightiness and universality are blended with Impressionist feelings of movement and joyfulness (B.E. White, Renoir, His Life, Art and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 217).
In particular, he turned to the monumental tradition established by Titian (fig. 1) and Rubens. In 1894, Renoir hired sixteen-year-old Gabrielle Renard (fig. 2) to help his wife Aline, who was then expecting their second child. Gabrielle would remain with the family for the next twenty years, until her marriage to the American painter Conrad Slade in 1912. During this period Gabrielle became Renoir's favorite model, and posed for him in the present work. Mauclair writes:
Instead of painting fleshy young girls, he now selected robust, mature women like Gabrielle: 'an artless, wild creature, blooming in perfumed scrub . . . a luxuriant, firm, healthy and naive woman with a powerful body, a small head, her eyes wide open, thoughtless, brilliant and ignorant, her lips blood-red and her nostrils dilated', as one critic commented just after the turn of the century (C. Mauclair, The French Impressionists, London, 1903, p. 46).
Renoir first depicted his models in an exotic setting or dress as early as 1872 (fig. 3). While these paintings and others clearly reference artistic traditions explored by Delacroix, Renoir was simply attempting to echo their lavish, ornamented settings. It was not until 1905 that Renoir successfully integrated his classical desires with his Impressionistic impulses. The warm palette and delicate brushstrokes evident in Jeune fille assise au costume orientale reveals Renoir's Impressionist roots, while the solidity of the figure demonstrates the artist's interest in a more classicizing form of art. The present work depicts Renoir's ideal of voluptous femininity with its warm palette of reds, pinks, and yellows, modulated with softer white highlights. Renoir said of his later paintings, "I look at a nude, there are myriads of tiny tints. I must find one that will make the flesh on my canvas live and quiver".
In describing this series of paintings from 1905-1910, John House writes:
Gabrielle served as Renoir's model for a sequence of canvases [fig. 4] in which she is shown loosely clothed in semi-transparent materials, with her blouse opened to reveal her breasts . . . Composition, colour and touch unite the elements in the picture. The brushwork is animated throughout, with the more delicately worked areas of the skin framed by the fluent highlights of costume . . . The colours, too, revolve around the skin: its soft whites, pinks, yellow, and reds are picked up in the closely related but brighter colours in the rest of the canvas. Her costume does not belong to a specific time of place: not modern nor ethnic, it is deliberately timeless, suggesting a generalized splendour and exoticism (J. House, Renoir, Boston, 1985, pp. 282-283).
(fig. 1) Titian, Venus with a Mirror, circa 1555.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
(fig. 2) Gabrielle Renard.
(fig. 3) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Femme parisienne en habit algérien, 1972.
Museum of Western Art, Tokyo.
(fig. 4) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle avec une rose, 1911. Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Jeune fille assise en costume orientale
Oil on canvas
Please note the correct Literature reference:
M. Drucker,Renoir, Paris, 1994, pl. 140 (illustrated).
Signed 'Renoir.' (upper right)
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Paintings by Renoir, 1917, no. 3.
317/8 x 25¾ in. (81 x 73 cm.)
G. Coquiot, Renoir, Paris, 1925, p. 8 (illustrated, p. 9).
M. Drucker, Renoir, Paris, 1944, pl. 136 (illustrated).
Durand-Ruel & Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 16 March 1916).
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York.
Sam Salz Inc., New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Edgar W. Garbisch, New York; sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., New York, 12 May 1980, lot 33.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.