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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Two Sisters or On the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Two Sisters (On the Terrace)

Two Sisters or On the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Two Sisters or On the Terrace by Pierre-Auguste Renoir depicts the upper terrace of the Maison Fournaise, a family restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, the western suburb of Paris. The painting shows a young woman and her younger girl seated outdoors with a small basket containing balls of wool. In the background over the railings of the terrace, are flowering plants and vines and then the River Seine with boats and some buildings in the top left on the other side of the river.

Renoir painted this delightful scene as a homage to springtime in 1881, and he or his art dealer called it “Two Sisters” (French: Les Deux Sœurs), its alternative title “On the Terrace” (French: Sur la terrasse) was used by the first owner of the painting. Jeanne Darlot (1863—1914), a future actress who was 18 years old when she posed for the elder sister. The identity of who represented the younger sister is not known as they were not real sisters. Before working on Two Sisters, Renoir worked in this particular location on another well-known painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Maison Fournaise

The Maison Fournaise is today a restaurant and museum located on Impressionist Island on the Seine in Chatou, west of Paris. In 1857, Alphonse Fournaise bought land in Chatou to open a boat rental, restaurant, and small hotel for the new tourist trade.

The family restaurant was a favourite of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who painted many scenes of the restaurant and from the restaurant as well several portraits of Fournaise family members and many landscapes of the surrounding area. In 1880, Renoir wrote to a friend:

“My painting detains me in Chatou. Be kind enough to come and have lunch with me.
You won’t regret your trip; this is the loveliest place in the surroundings of Paris.”

The Maison Fournaise museum’s collection is focused on the history of the house and the golden age of the banks of the Seine. It also holds exhibitions around contemporary artistic movements from the Impressionist era.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, commonly known as Auguste Renoir, was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As one who celebrated beauty and especially feminine sensuality, Renoir’s paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated colour, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of colour, so that his figures softly fuse with their surroundings.

At the age of 51, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis which in his last twenty years of his life severely limited his mobility. He developed progressive deformities in his hands and ankylosis of his right shoulder, requiring him to change his painting technique. Renoir remained positive and passionate about his art and did not let his condition affect his painting or diminish the beauty that he saw around him. In the advanced stages of his arthritis, he required an assistant to place his paintbrush in his hand. His hands were also wrapped with bandages to prevent skin irritation. Renoir applied a variety of effective coping strategies and used his ingenuity to come up with different ways to continue painting even as his arthritis weakened him.

Renoir was a prolific artist who created several thousand paintings. The single most extensive collection of his works, about 181 paintings, are part of the Barnes Foundation, in Philadelphia.

Reflections

  • What makes this painting immediately recognizable as a Renoir?
  • Did you know that Renoir suffered a great deal from rheumatoid arthritis during the last 20 years of his life?

Exploring Renoir

The Theater Box

  • Title:            Two Sisters (On the Terrace)
  • Artist:           Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Date:            1881
  • Medium:      Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 1,005 mm (39.56 ″); Width: 810 mm (31.88 ″)
  • Museum:      Art Institute of Chicago

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”
– Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Photo Credit 1) Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain]

 

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