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Renoir | Jeune paysanne mangeant une pomme

Renoir and Berthe Morisot became close friends in 1885 - when both artists were forty-four years old - and continued to be until Morisot's death a decade later.
Morisot invited Renoir to her weekly dinner parties and during this period he frequently visited Morisot at her summer home in Mézy.
While their subjects and ultimately their styles differ, the similarity of palette and brushwork in each artist's work of the mid-1880s to the mid-1890s is notable.

They often painted side-by-side addressing the same theme of the girl in a landscape and sharing the same models, in this case Louis-Gabrielle Dufour, the young villager and friend of Morisot’s daughter, Julie.
Dufour was immortalised by Morisot in her Bergère series, the finest versions of which are in the Thyssen Bornemisza collection and the Musée Marmottan.

In Renoir’s bright and energetic example the figure is similarly no longer part of the landscape, but allowed instead to dominate her surroundings.
Dufour stands in an active pose, hand on hip eating an apple, gaze averted, surrounded by a lush, green foliage which envelopes her closely.
Expressive brushstrokes of vibrant colour follow the direction of her contour, dissolving before they reach the edges of the canvas.

Renoir said of his figural landscape paintings:
  • "As for me, I just struggle with my figures until they are a harmonious unity with their landscape background, and I want people to feel that neither the setting nor the figure are dull and lifeless" (quoted in K. Wheldon, Renoir and his Art, London, 1975, pp. 108-109). | © Christie's
Berthe Morisot | Woman in Grey Reclining, 1879 | Private collection, Paris