Title: Flowers in a Vase*
Artist: Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
YOUNG RENOIR: Imagine being only 25 and creating a masterpiece like Flowers in a Vase above! Renoir was then a struggling, unknown artist based in Paris, where he had lived since a child when his family moved from Limoges. He was already friends with Claude Monet; the two of them would work together in the upcoming years, developing Impressionism, which is so popular today.
However, Renoir had been trained in realism, by his teacher painter Charles Gleyre, who generously offered lessons for free. For instance, notice how Renoir has rendered the wildflowers with accuracy, emphasizing detail.
A DAY IN THE COUNTRY?: Yet, wouldn’t Renoir have to venture outside of Paris to discover such a bouquet? Perhaps to the estate of his patrons the Le Coeur family, near Fontainebleau. Walking through the fields with Lise, his then mistress and model, gathering a variety of flora with an artist’s eye.
RELAXING THE MIND: Probably Renoir looked forward to his time alone with them in his studio, immortalizing their beauty. For according to one of his quotes, painting flowers actually relaxed him mentally, unlike human models who could be a source of tension.
WILDFLOWER EXTRAVAGANZA: Have you ever seen such a display of nature, ingeniously arranged by Renoir? The wildflowers overflowing from the solid, earthenware vase, with a sense of freedom and abandon, as if still growing in the meadow where Renoir had recently picked them.
Initially you might be drawn to the irresistible red of the poppies that are impossible to miss. Although, if you are patient, an encyclopedia of France’s wildflowers are revealed. You might want to consult a French nature website for a list like I did that included cornflower, corymbflower-tansy, black-mustard, Aromatic-Scented-Mayweed, agrimony, thistle, apple mint, among several others.
THE END OF A RELATIONSHIP: For nearly a decade, Renoir was friends with painter Jules Le Coeur and his brother Charles who were important patrons of the aspiring artist. However, in 1874, the relationship was abruptly ended. Yet, Flowers in a Vase, which was bought by Charles, remained in his collection until 1924 when it was sold. By 1958, the work of art was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, who donated it to the National Gallery of Art in 1983.
GOOGLING RENOIR: Revitalize yourself and your day by googling more bouquets by Renoir.
Start with another painting once owned by Charles Le Coeur:
Spring Bouquet, 1866, oil on canvas, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum
Then continue with:
Mixed Flowers in a Earthenware Pot, c. 1869, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Chrysanthemums, 1881/1882, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago
Bouquet of Roses, 1900, oil on canvas, Barnes Foundation
Young Woman Sewing, 1879, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago (the vase of flowers in the background is unforgettable)
*Flowers in a Vase is currently not hanging in the National Gallery of Art.
In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.