Renoir’s Gabrielle

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle Mending, 1908
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gabrielle Mending, 1908

I’m reading a book about Renoir, which you’ll likely hear more about in a later post. It is interesting to learn who the people in the paintings are. Gabrielle, for instance, is a cousin of Aline (Renoir’s wife) who came to live with the Renoir family to be a nanny. She later did some modeling for Renoir, and there are many paintings of Gabrielle. According to the book I am reading, Gabrielle was quite the spirited girl. Knowing some of the stories about the people in Renoir’s paintings adds a new spin to appreciating his art. These are real people–family members, friends, admirers, fellow artists. They are not anonymous models, all face and no history. As much as the Impressionists wanted to portray an impression of the moment, their paintings still have background, weight, and shadows of the past.

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