Tune In to Renoir's Joy of Living

Take an audio tour of Renoir's 'Femme accoudée' from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

By Google Arts & Culture

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The portrait would seem unfinished, albeit signed: many parts of the canvas are nearly untouched! Can you see that?

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It’s probably the result of a brief moment of an en-plein-air painting day, while the painter tried to set an impression of the modern life, with quick strokes. 

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Impressionists sought a direct contact with the reality they lived in, painting outside their studios, refusing the historic or mythological subjects praised by contemporary critics. 

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The incomplete work gives us a glimpse of how Renoir attempted to capture this modern and fleeting world: the paint is applied freely, without any preparatory drawing, so to obtain throbbing figures with vaporous outlines.

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A method that aims to replicate the instant in which the colors, transported by light, strike the eyes, impressing an iridescent image on the retina, rich in shades and reflections. 

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With thick strokes and the bright reds of the lips and the cheeks, the girl’s face becomes full of life… full of the joy of living. A feeling that will always be Renoir’s signature, of all his works, of all his faces.

Woman Leaning on Her Elbows (Femme accoudée) (ca. 1875-1885) by Pierre-Auguste RenoirThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

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