Auguste Renoir

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Auguste Renoir
Study for The Great Bathers
ca. 1886-1887 and 1908
Red and white chalk, with smudging and blending on wove paper lined to canvas.
44 3/8 x 57 1/2 inches (114 x 147 cm)
Bequest of Drue Heinz.

This work is a preparatory drawing for The Great Bathers (1884-87, Philadelphia Museum of Art), one of the most ambitious and labor-intensive paintings Renoir produced. In the early 1880s, Renoir became dissatisfied with the approach of his fellow Impressionist artists both to creating paintings and to exhibiting and marketing their work in independent exhibitions. In the same period, he first visited Italy and was struck by the techniques of the fresco paintings he saw in Pompeii and Rome. As a result, he began to seek greater rigor and structure in his own work, often emulating the sharp outlines and dry surface of fresco, and turned increasingly to drawing to develop his compositions. After initially producing a full-scale drawing and an oil sketch of the Great Bathers composition with three figures, probably in the fall of 1886, Renoir then focused on just the left-hand and central bathers. The Morgan's drawing is likely the first of two large studies in red and white chalk, in which he has drawn a more robust figure in the center than that in the initial sketch and tested different placements of her left arm, showing it either at her side or bent at the elbow and partially raised. In fact, the area of white chalk above this figure's shoulder, which Renoir seems to have added sometime in 1908, also covers traces of her arm reaching upward for a tree branch, as in his initial sketch. For the final painting the artist changed this figure's pose yet again, showing her drying herself with a towel.


Lower right, graphite "Renoir".

Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), Paris; Martin Fabiani (1899-1989), Paris, 1939-1956; sold to Paul Rosenberg, Oct. 5, 1956 (for 35,842.30 francs, stock no. 5666); Paul Rosenberg and Co., New York, 1956-61; sold to Heinz, Jan. 30, 1961 (for 45,000 francs); H. J. (1908-1987) and Drue (1915-2018) Heinz, II, New York, 1961-2018.
Associated names: 

Vollard, Ambroise, 1867-1939, former owner.
Fabiani, Martin, former owner.
Rosenberg, Paul, 1881-1959, former owner.
Heinz, H. J., former owner.
Heinz, H. J., Mrs., former owner.


Vollard, Ambroise. Tableaux, pastels et dessins de Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Paris, 1918, vol. 1, p. 48, no. 191, repr., dated 1885.
Bell, Esther, and George T. M Shackelford, eds. Renoir: The Body, the Senses. Williamstown, MA, Clark Art Institute, 2019, pp. 45, 235, cat. 26, repr. (as Bathers (Study for The Great Bathers), ca. 1884-87).
Bailey, Colin B. “Renoir's Bathers (Study for The Great Bathers): A Recent Acquisition at the Morgan Library and Museum,” 19th Century Studies 33 (2021): 78-91, fig. 1.

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