Pierre-Auguste Renoir, After the Luncheon. Óleo sobre lienzo, 100,5 x 81,3 cm, Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum.

MADRID.- Writing about his father, the filmmaker Jean Renoir said: “He looked at flowers, women and clouds in the sky as other men touch and caress.” Renoir: Intimacy, the first retrospective in Spain to focus on the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), challenges the traditional concept that reduces Impressionism to the “purely visual”. Rather, it emphasises the central role played by tactile sensations in Renoir’s paintings, which are present in all the different phases of his career and are expressed through a wide range of genres including group scenes, portraits, nudes, still lifes and landscapes. 

Curated by Guillermo Solana, Artistic Director of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the exhibition is sponsored by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and presents a survey of 78 works by the artist loaned from museums and collections worldwide, including the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the National Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Renoir: Intimacy shows how the artist made use of the tactile qualities of volume, paint and textures as a vehicle to evoke intimacy in its various forms (friendship, the family or erotic ties) and how that imagery connects the work to the viewer through the sensuality of the brushstroke and the pictorial surface. The exhibition will subsequently be shown at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum from 7 February to 15 May 2017. 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Aline Renoir Nursing her Baby, 1915. Óleo sobre lienzo. 51 x 40,5 cm Berna, Kunstmuseum Bern. Legado Georges F. Keller, 1981.

While the figures in the group portraits of artists such as Manet and Degas tend to maintain their distance with the viewer, Renoir imbued his figures with a palpable closeness. In scenes with two or more, these figures habitually participate in a process of alternation between visual and physical contact: pairs of siblings or mothers and children in which one looks at the other, while the second responds by touching them. 

On occasions these exchanges are constructed around a shared activity such as reading a book. In the case of his individual portraits, Renoir aimed to offer an experience comparable to physical contact by bringing the viewer as close as possible. While Degas surrounded his models with a setting and attributes that represent them, Renoir tended to tighten up the composition, omitting the setting in order to concentrate our gaze on the figure’s face. 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bathing in the Seine (La Grenouillère), 1869. Óleo sobre lienzo. 59 x 80 cm. Moscú, The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

Other details that refer to palpable sensations in Renoir’s paintings include the figures’ hair, which they play with and twist around their hands; the dogs held by women in these works; the pieces of cloth or towels that cover their breast or are wrapped round their thighs; the task of sewing; skeins of wool; or the dense texture of a garden. 

Renoir: Intimacy is structured into six thematic sections: Impressionism: public and private; Commissioned portraits; Everyday pleasures; Northern and southern landscapes; Family and environment and Bathers. 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir,Hills around the Bay of Moulin Huet, Guernsey, 1883. Óleo sobre lienzo. 46 x 65,4 cm Nueva York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Legado de Julia W. Emmons, 1956.

The Impressionist phase, from 1869 to 1880, occupies three rooms in the exhibition and features some of Renoir’s most iconic works, including Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (The Rowers´Lunch) (1875) After the Luncheon (1879), a life study for Le Moulin de la Galette (18751876), and Bathing in the Seine (La Grenouillère) of 1869, one of the works that Renoir executed in La Grenouillère, a popular area for leisure activities on the outskirts of Paris where he worked with Monet. A selection of female portraits set outdoors or in interiors, including Portrait of Madame Claude Monet (1872-1874), portraits of couples such as La Promenade (1870), in addition to an Impressionist landscape, Woman with a Parasol in a Garden (1875), complete this section. 

By 1881 the Impressionist approach seemed to be exhausted and the group’s members moved apart. Renoir turned his gaze to the classical tradition, from Raphael to Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. While maintaining the use of an Impressionist pictorial language, his works now reveal a greater emphasis on drawing.  


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Promenade, 1870. Óleo sobre lienzo. 81,3 x 64,8 cm Los Ángeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

From the late 1870s and during the rest of the following decade Renoir gained a growing reputation as a portraitist, becoming one of the most solicited by Parisian high society. His depictions of Madame Thurneyssen and her Daughter (1910), or the series devoted to the Durand-Ruel family are among the examples of this facet of his output on display. 

Among the scenes of everyday life are depictions of young women, either alone or with other women, located in an interior in which they are shown absorbed in activities that isolate them from the viewer. The green Flowerpot (1882) and Young Women reading (1891) allow us to enter this intimate space of everyday pleasures. 

The room devoted to landscapes includes views of the Normandy coast and the Channel Islands, such as Hills around the Bay of Moulin Huet, Guernsey (1883), Provence, where he shared pictorial motifs with his friend Cézanne, among them Mont Sainte-Victoire (ca.1888-1889) and various locations in southern Italy, including The Bay of Salerno (Landscape of the South) of 1881.  


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Pond, Cagnes or Landsape at Cagnes-sur-Mer, 1905-1907. Óleo sobre lienzo. 46 x 55 cm. Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Académie des Beaux-Arts.

The exhibition continues with family and domestic scenes featuring the artist’s children, such as Coco eating his Soup (1905) and Jean dressed as a Hunter (1910); the artist’s wife Aline, depicted in Motherhood (1885), painted to mark the birth of their first son Pierre, and in Aline Renoir Nursing her Baby (1915); and other members of his closest circle. The latter included Gabrielle Renard, the family’s nanny and a distant relative of Aline, who became one of Renoir’s favourite models, seen here in Boy with an Apple or Gabrielle, Jean Renoir and a Girl (ca.18951896), and Andrée Heuschling, who would marry Renoir’s son Jean after the artist’s death, seen here in The Concert (1918-1919). 

The nude was among Renoir’s preferred subjects, although with the exception of Degas the Impressionists tended to avoid it as they considered it an academic theme. Engaged in his own stylistic evolution, Renoir achieved one of the high points of his career with his scenes of bathers: a series of nudes set outdoors in which the artist celebrated a type of timeless nature devoid of any reference to the modern world. The result is an idyllic vision characterised by the sensuality of the models, richness of colouring and plenitude of the forms. 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Source, 1906. Óleo sobre lienzo. 92 x 73 cm. Zurich, Colección Foundation E.G. Bührle.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean as a Huntsman, 1910. Óleo sobre lienzo. 172,7 x 88,9 cm. Los Ángeles, Los Ángeles County Museum of Art. Donación debida a la generosidad del difunto Sr. Jean Renoir y la Sra. Dido Renoir.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Young Woman with Raised Arms, hacia 1895. Óleo sobre lienzo. 46,3 x 38,2 cm. Bremen, Kunsthalle Bremen-Der Kunstverein in Bremen.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Plait, hacia 1886-1887. Óleo sobre lienzo. 57 x 47 cm Baden, Museum Langmatt, Langmatt Foundation Sidney and Jenny Brown.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette (Study), 1875-1876. Óleo sobre lienzo. 65 x 85 cm. Copenhaguen, Ordrupgaard.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lise in a White Shawl, circa 1872. Óleo sobre lienzo. 55,9 x 45,7 cm Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, Colección Wendy y Emery Reves.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mlle Charlotte Berthier, 1883 Óleo sobre lienzo. 92,1 x 73 cm. Washington, D.C, National Gallery of Art. Donación de Angelika Wetheim Frink.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Madame Thurneyssen and her Daughter, 1910. Óleo sobre lienzo. 100 x 81 cm. Buffalo, Nueva York, Colección de la AlbrightKnox Art Gallery. Fondos Generales para Adquisiciones, 1940.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mount of Saint Victoire, circa 1888-1889. Óleo sobre lienzo. 53 x 64,1 cm New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery. Colección Ordway.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Madame Claude Monet, circa1872- 1874. Óleo sobre lienzo. 53 x 71, 7 cm. Lisboa, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman with a Parasol in a Garden, 1875. Óleo sobre lienzo. 54,5 x 65 cm. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, A Nymph by a Stream, 1869-1870. Óleo sobre lienzo. 66,7 x 122,9 cm. Londres, The National Gallery. Adquirido en 1951.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Child with an Apple or Gabrielle, Jean Renoir and a Little Girl, circa 1895-1896. Pastel sobre papel. 560 x 760 mm. Mrs. Léone Cettolin Dauberville.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman at the Piano, 1875-1876. Óleo sobre lienzo, 93 x 74 cm. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago Colección Mr. y Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (The Rowers’ Lunch), 1875. Óleo sobre lienzo. 55 x 65,9 cm Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Colección Potter Palmer.