Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La Loge (The Theatre Box), 1880. The Clark, Williamstown, MA, USA


19 October 2010 – 6 February 2011 – Museo National del Prado|
The Collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

The artistic career of Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), one of the leading figures of Impressionism, is characterised by an all-absorbing passion for painting that led him to achieve great renown and popularity among his contemporaries. The outstanding group of 31 works by the artist, which are the finest among the collection of paintings by Renoir assembled by the American collector Robert Sterling Clark (1877-1956), founder of the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute (Williamstown), will be displayed at the Prado, sponsored by Fundación BBVA in the first monographic exhibition to be held on the artist in Spain.

The core of the collection of paintings from the Clark Institute originates in the large group of Impressionist works assembled by Sterling and Francine Clark over the course of four decades. For the Clarks, Pierre-Auguste Renoir represented the quintessence of Impressionism and as a result they acquired more than 35 of his paintings, including some of his most important creations. Among them are the Self-portrait (ca.1875), a painting whose technique departs from Renoir’s habitual delicacy to offer a notably powerful expressivity; Portrait of Madame Monet (ca.1874), which spans the boundary between portraiture and genre painting and deploys an unconventional type of fragmented brushstroke; The Wash-House at Bas-Meudon (ca.1874), and The Bridge at Chatou (ca.1875), which are highly experimental landscapes dating from Renoir’s finest Impressionist period; La Loge (The Theatre Box) (1880), which uses strong tonal contrasts of blacks and whites and avoids the predominantly blue palette that had characterised Renoir’s work over the previous five years; Peonies (ca.1880), one of the artist’s most magnificent flower paintings and an example of the way in which he delighted in filling his canvases to the edges without leaving any empty space; Onions (1881), a fluidly painted and informal but carefully structured composition that was Sterling Clark’s favourite work by the artist; and The Bath (Girl arranging her Hair) (1885), one of the most precisely and exquisitely drawn of Renoir’s figures and the culmination of his mastery of the Impressionist technique.

As with all the Impressionists, Renoir is an artist barely represented in Spanish public collections with the sole exception of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which, like the Clark Art Institute, has its origins in a private collection.

The Clark Institute was founded in the city of Williamstown (Massachusetts) through the generous patronage of the Clarks. The Institute’s Museum opened in 1955. The Impressionist paintings are especially notable among its rich and diverse holdings, while particularly outstanding within that group are the works by Renoir that form the basis of the present exhibition.

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