Renoir and the Sea

On 09 July 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

A small painting by Renoir depicting a timeless Mediterranean, once owned by Vollard, charmed beyond expectations.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Paysage du Midi, environs de Cagnes-sur-Mer (Southern Landscape around Cagnes-sur-Mer), around 1885, oil on canvas, 23 x 46 cm.
Result: €367,080

All eyes were on Juif en prière ["Praying Jew"], a work on paper by Marc Chagall (1887-1985). But the religious man immersed in meditation turned a deaf ear to the noise of the auction. Another modern work, by prolific Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), achieved the highest price. The bidding war sparked by this sunny Mediterranean landscape culminated at €367,080. A small oil on canvas (23 x 46 cm, 9 x 18 in), it is one of those sketches Renoir enjoyed making at his villa-studio overlooking the Mediterranean in Cagnes-sur-Mer. This work belonged to legendary art dealer Ambroise Vollard, boosting its value despite its small size. It was reproduced in volume II of his Tableaux, pastels et dessins de P.-A. Renoir (page 47), illustrated by the painter himself (Paris, 1918). Now that explains it!
The program was thoroughly modern. At €36,064 Vue de Dordrecht et de l'hôtel aux armes de Hollande (View of Dordrecht and the Hotel aux Armes of Holland, 27 x 21.5 cm, 10 x 8.4 in) painted by Eugène Boudin (1824-1898) in 1884 during his journey to the Netherlands, recalls how essential the Dutch Golden Age artists were to his training. Next came Quatre danseuses évoluant (Four Moving Dancers, 40.3 x 60.2 cm, 15.8 x 23.7 in), a charcoal drawing by – who else? – Edgar Degas (1834-1917) evoking his fascination with the world of ballet. This genuine moment of intimacy spontaneously captured with an indiscreet pencil fetched €38,640. In keeping with this traditional vein, Place Saint-Pierre and Sacré-Cœur of Montmartre (37 x 45 cm, 14.5 x 17.7 in) by Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955) sold for €52,808. Modern art is certainly alive and well, and pulling out all the stops to charm buyers.

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