Arbres [paysage de Cagnes]
Oil on canvas: 7.6(h) x 15.4(w) in /
19.4(h) x 39.1(w) cm
Signed lower left: Renoir .
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Limoges 1841 – 1919 Cagnes
Arbres (paysage de Cagnes)
Signed lower left: Renoir .
Oil on canvas: 7⅝ x 15⅜ in / 19.4 x 39.1 cm
Frame Size: 13 x 20 ¾ in / 33 x 52.7 cm
Painted in 1909
Monsieur Maurice Gangnat (1856-1924);
his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24th-25th June 1925, lot 108 (FFr.23,000 to Svadari)
Private collection, France
London, Marborough Fine Arts, Renoir, May-June 1956, no.33
Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville, Renoir: Catalogue Raisonné des Tableaux, Pastels, Dessins et Aquarelles, vol. IV, 1903-1910, Paris 2011, p.134, no.2901, illus.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue critique of the work of Pierre-Auguste Renoir being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute from the François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein archives
In 1907 Renoir bought the small estate of Les Collettes in Cagnes, just west of Nice on the Côte d’Azur. Captivated by Provençal landscape and culture, he was determined to preserve the rural character of the property and left the original farm buildings untouched, building a new house on the estate which he moved into with his family in 1908. John House remarks that ‘Almost like Monet, who built his water garden as his ideal pictorial subject in his last years, Renoir could construct at Les Collettes a physical world which fulfilled his pictorial vision. But it was quite different in two crucial ways: Monet built his anew, to his own aesthetic specifications, while Renoir’s was old, preserved as an idealised vision of past society; and Monet’s was an elaborately cultivated garden, conceived as an object of solitary contemplation, whereas Renoir’s view of nature necessarily implied the human presence, which the olives and the old farm evoked so richly’.
Renoir’s landscapes of this period are often small but always complete and carefully composed,
presenting sweeping vistas filled with all the colours and light of the Mediterranean. Arbres (paysage de Cagnes) shows the olive trees in the artist’s sun-drenched garden, the gnarled tree trunks and silvery leaves set against an azure sky. Renoir discussed his Cagnes landscapes with Réné Gimpel in 1918: ‘The olive tree, what a brute. If you realized how much trouble it has caused me. A tree full of colours. Not great at all. Its little leaves, how they’ve made me sweat! A gust of wind, and my tree’s tonality changes. The colour isn’t on the leaves, but in the spaces between them. I know I can’t paint nature, but I enjoy struggling with it. A painter can’t be great if he doesn’t understand landscape. Landscape, in the past, has been a term of contempt, particularly in the eighteenth century; but still, that century that I adore did produce some landscapists. I’m one with the eighteenth century. With all modesty, I consider not only that my art descends from a Watteau, a Fragonard, a Hubert Robert, but also that I am one with them’.
In his review of Durand-Ruel’s 1908 exhibition of Renoir and Monet’s landscapes, JF Schnerb comments: ‘M. Renoir more and more loves has canvas being full and sonorous. He loathes empty spaces. Every corner in his landscapes offers a relationship of colours and values chosen with a view to the embellishment of the surface’. His recent studies of the Provençal landscape led him ‘to transpose the themes furnished by nature into the most sonorous colour range and to assemble the largest possible number of elements in the canvas, like a musician who ceaselessly adds new elements to his orchestra’.
This picture was once part of the magnificent group of 160 later-period Renoirs amassed by the industrialist Maurice Gangnat (1856-1924), who met the artist around 1904 through Paul Gallimard. He bought directly from Renoir and was one of the few patrons invited to Les Collettes. Renoir painted Gangnat’s young son Philippe in 1906 and Gangnat himself in 1916 (both in private collections). He owned Gabrielle with a rose, 1911, which Philippe presented in his father’s memory to the French national museums; it is today in the Musée d’Orsay. In 1909 Gangnat also commissioned two luxuriant paintings of dancers, Dancing girl with tambourine and Dancing girl with castanets (both National Gallery, London) for the dining room of his Paris apartment. Renoir praised Gangnat’s unerring eye: ‘When he entered the studio, his glance always fell on the canvas which Renoir considered the best. “He has an eye!” my father stated’.
Renoir’s house, Les Collettes, at Cagnes.
Limoges 1841 – 1919 Cagnes
Pierre-August Renoir, one of the best loved of the Impressionists, always painted the beauties of nature: harmonious landscapes, flowers, fruit, children and women. He began his career at the age of thirteen as a painter on porcelain in a factory in Paris. He soon gave this up in favour of painting fans and decorating blinds, which he did until 1862, when he had saved enough money to support his ambition to study art. He enrolled in classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and in 1864 had his first painting accepted at the Paris Salon.
During this period Renoir also studied in the atelier of Charles Gleyre, where he became friends with Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille. In 1863 Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’Herbe caused uproar at the Salon des Refusés and made a deep impression on the group of young painters. They began to go on expeditions to the Forest of Fontainebleau to paint en plein air and started to develop a palette and style of painting that formed the foundation of Impressionism. In 1869 Renoir worked alongside Claude Monet at La Grenouillière on the Seine, producing what are considered to be the first landscapes painted in the Impressionist style.
Although Renoir continued to submit his works to the Salon throughout the early 1870s, he also continued to explore his new approach to light and colour and to forge strong links with other like-minded artists such as Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Edgar Degas. By 1874 the group was so disaffected by the constraints placed upon them by the Salon jury that they decided to mount their own exhibition which challenged the accepted tradition of official art exhibitions. In April 1874 the group held the first of the Impressionist exhibitions.
This group of artists exhibited eight times between 1874 and 1886 and Renoir participated on four occasions. In 1878 his painting Madame Charpentier and her children (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) was accepted at the Salon. The painting was critically well received and Renoir finally began to sell his paintings; for the first time he experienced a degree of financial security. As Renoir’s popularity grew he travelled more and gradually began to adopt a different approach to his art. The Impressionists were suffering from internal disputes which led Renoir to disassociate himself from them; consequently he did not take part in the eighth and final show in 1886.
Throughout the rest of his life Renoir’s work continued to develop. He visited the South of France, Italy and North Africa, where he painted dramatic, highly-coloured landscapes. He eventually married his mistress Aline Charigot and as his family grew he experienced a new contentment. In 1907, suffering from ill health, he purchased a property in Cagnes-sur-Mer near Nice on the Côte d’Azur where he settled with his family and painted until his death in 1919.
 London, Hayward Gallery/Paris, Grand Palais/Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Renoir, 1985-6, pp.287-8.
 Quoted in Hayward Gallery Renoir, op. cit., p.277.
 Quoted in ibid., p.277.
 Jean Renoir, Renoir, My Father, English edn., London 1962, p.448.