Coco au ruban rose
Oil on canvas: 12.2(h) x 10.2(w) in / 31.1(h) x 26(w) cm
Limoges 1841 - 1919 Cagnes
Coco au ruban rose
Signed upper right: Renoir
Oil on canvas: 12 ¼ x 10 ¼ in / 31 x 26 cm
Frame size: 20 x 18 in / 50.8 x 45.7 cm
Painted circa 1905
Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Galerie Tanner, Zurich;
from whom acquired by a private collector, Switzerland;
Sotheby’s London, 4th December 1990, lot 4
Sam Porter Fine Arts, Great Neck, New York;
from whom acquired in October 1996 by Murray and Irene Pergament, New York
Sotheby’s New York, 9th May 2007, lot 123
Private collection, California
Guarisco Gallery, Washington DC;
from whom acquired in April 2014 by Nancy W Knowles
New York, Hammer Galleries, Renoir, 1st November 2010-5th January 2011, p.52-53, fig. 19, illus. in colour
Ambroise Vollard, Tableaux, Pastels et Dessins de P-A Renoir, Paris 1918, vol. I, p.60, illus. (Tête d’enfant)
Ambroise Vollard, Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Paintings, Pastels and Drawings, rev. edn. San Francisco 1989, p.60, no.237 (Tête d’enfant, 1905), illus.
Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville, Renoir: Catalogue Raisonné des Tableaux, Pastels, Dessins et Aquarelles, vol. IV, 1903-1910, Paris 2012, p.440, no.3429, illus. (Tête d’enfant (Coco au ruban rose))
To be included in the forthcoming digital catalogue raisonné of the work of Pierre-Auguste Renoir being prepared by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute from the François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein archives
Auguste Renoir loved children and he loved painting them: their glowing skin, their soft contours, their air of optimism and innocence. All are present in this lively portrait of his youngest son, Claude (1901-1969), born when Renoir was sixty, and known to the family as Coco. Renoir delights in four-year-old Coco’s unruly locks, with their red and gold highlights, charmingly restrained by a pink bow. There is energy in the sweep of his pink collar and the vibrating shadows of the wall behind him. Only Renoir can suggest the misty blue of a child’s eyes, full of hope and curiosity. By this stage of his career, Renoir painted from passion rather than financial necessity. He has snatched up his brushes to create this shimmering portrait of childhood, full of affection.
Coco’s mother was Aline Charigot (1859-1915), whom Renoir met in 1880. Like Renoir’s mother, she was a seamstress. From Essoyes in southern Champagne, she quickly became his model and lover. She is the snub-nosed, round-faced young woman cooing at the lap dog in Renoir’s celebrated Luncheon of the boating party, 1880-1 (Phillips Collection, Washington DC). Their first son, Pierre, was born in 1885. The couple married in 1890 and Jean (the future film director) was born in 1894. Claude followed on 4th August 1901.
It is obvious from Jean Renoir’s famous memoir of his father, Renoir (1962) that Auguste was a humane, tolerant and wise parent, who connected with his children despite being in middle age by the time that the eldest was born. From 1908 the boys had the chance to run wild in the jungly Mediterranean garden at Les Collettes, near Nice, which inspired so many of Renoir’s later landscapes. He painted his children on numerous occasions. The full-length Claude Renoir en clown, 1909 (Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris) has overtones of an Old Master painting; as John House comments, ‘it delicately treads the borderline between homage and parody’. Claude’s beautiful blonde hair is still in evidence, if rather more carefully styled. He has left an amusing account of the genesis of the work, as his eight-year-old self rebelled at the itchy silk stockings that he was made to wear. ‘Threats followed, and then negotiations; one after the other I was promised a spanking, an electric railway, being sent to boarding-school, and a box of oil colours’. Claude was eventually rewarded with the paints and set to work.
Unsurprisingly, growing up in such an atmosphere of creativity, Renoir’s boys embraced the arts. Pierre (1885-1952) became an actor. Jean (1894-1979) became a famous director of films such as La Bête Humaine (1938) and La Règle du Jeu (1939). Claude worked with Jean on his films and in the Second World War joined the Résistance, earning the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance. After the War, he was involved in television. In 1950 he returned to the Côte d’Azur and made and painted ceramics, the craft to which Auguste had been apprenticed a hundred years before.
Auguste Renoir’s family at 73 rue Caulaincourt, Paris, c.1902-3. From left to right: Aline with Claude, Pierre, Jean and Auguste. © Fond Vollard, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Auguste Renoir, Claude Renoir en clown, 1909. © Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.
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 companion 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, Renoir, 1985, p.277, no.110.
 Claude Renoir, ‘Souvenirs sur mon père’, in Seize Aquarelles et Sanguines de Renoir, Paris 1948, quoted in Hayward Gallery, Renoir, op. cit., p.277.