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Text by Geoffrey Smith


Arcadian Dreams / Symbolist Visions



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Pierre-Auguste Renoir: La Promenade - 1870

Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum

In 1869 Renoir and Monet had spent part of the summer painting together at a popular bathing spot, La Grenouillère near Bougival just outside Paris. A remarkable chemistry between them generated a special moment in the gestation of impressionism. In this painting, completed a year later, Renoir has used a somewhat darker palette than his Grenouillère paintings - closer perhaps to that of Gustave Courbet - but the brushwork is very much that of Renoir’s distinctive impressionist technique.

Some have seen in this painting the influence of eighteenth-century French painters such as Jean-Antoine Watteau and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, whose output he would have seen in the Louvre. This is possible but instead of the well bred leisured elite of the French ancien regime Renoir depicts middle-class Parisians recently freed to take the air in the countryside around Paris by the construction of suburban railways. This scene could be anywhere but the chances are that Renoir might have returned to the fashionable retreats near Bougival.

The dappled light playing on the couple, along with the flickering dabs and dashes of paint became a Renoir hallmark during the 1870s and 1880s.

Contemporary Works

1870 Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Beata Beatrix, London, Tate

1870 Jean-François Millet: Killing of the Pig, Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada

1870 Gustave Courbet: The Wave, Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut


Further Paintings of Interest


Claude Monet

Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Édouard Manet


Édouard Manet