CRANSTON, R.I. – A fresh-to-the-market oil painting by the French impressionist master Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), done around 1918 and titled Portrait of Gabrielle leaning on her hand, promises to be the centerpiece lot in an auction planned for fall or winter – probably in November – by Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers, online and in the firm’s gallery at 63 Fourth Ave., Cranston, Rhode Island. A firm auction date will be announced on www.bruneauandco.com.
Renoir painting appraisal
In July, the painting was given an insurance appraisal of $250,000 by Dr. Lori Verderame, Ph.D, the director of Masterpiece Technologies Trumbauersville, Pennsylvania. Dr. Verderame said in her report the painting’s signature, lower right (“Renoir”) was “in the artist’s characteristic manner,” and the sitter was the artist’s “long-standing model and relative by marriage, Gabrielle Renaud.”
The painting – a small-scale oil on canvas portrait, unframed, measuring 14.25” by 9.80” – is typical of Renoir’s style. He was a consummate celebrator of beauty and especially feminine sensuality. Works by him are highly coveted by collectors. In May 1990, Renoir’s work Bal du moulin de la Galette sold for $78.1 million at an auction held by Sotheby’s in New York.
Bruneau & Co. excited about the offering
“It’s a pretty surreal experience to be handling an authentic Pierre Auguste Renoir painting,” said Travis Landry, a Bruneau & Co. specialist and auctioneer. “Plus the fact that this is a first time to the market painting with authentication, fresh out of a Massachusetts estate, literally makes my heart race. It just goes to show there is so much stuff out there that’s still left to be discovered.”
Bruneau & Co. company president and auctioneer Kevin Bruneau added, “It’s a good feeling when you have a higher-end item, like this Renoir painting, which has all the information on the back, making what’s on the front all the more beautiful. Provenance is everything with this or any painting, and it’s exciting to offer this one with the history that it has. It was a real find.”
The information on the back includes markings on the verso stretcher that read, in French, “Palais des Beaux Arts, Exhibition” (stamped); and words written on verso stretcher and canvas “Par Mon Main” (translated as “by my hand”). The work is also marked and dated “Renoir 1918” and is marked on verso “Ambroise Volliard 6 rue Lafitte 19…” (with the rest illegible).
Vollard was Renoir’s art dealer and longtime friend who had a gallery at 6 rue Lafitte in Paris, from 1896-1924. He represented Renoir’s work to the art market. Vollard's other clients included luminaries such as Bonnard, Picasso and Cezanne. Vollard was the artist’s representative at the time of Renoir’s death. It’s possible this painting was left in Vollard’s studio and later marketed.
About sitter Gabrielle Renaud
As for the dark-haired sitter, Gabrielle Renaud, she is depicted leaning on her right hand near her right eye. Her left hand is on her chest. Her deep-set dark eyes and closed mouth are accentuated, as is the white flower hair accessory shown above her left ear. The foreground and background suggest printed floral textile and wallpaper in a palette of gold, yellow, brown and other colors.
Gabrielle’s life is nearly as fascinating as the artist who painted her. Born in the Aube region of France on Aug. 1, 1878, she was a cousin of Aline Victorine Charigot, who became the wife of Pierre Auguste Renoir. At age 16, Gabrielle moved to Montmartre, in Paris, to live with the Renoir family. There, she worked as a nanny for the Renoir children.
Gabrielle became the subject of many of Renoir’s portraits. She was often depicted with the Renoir children. During the last few years of Renoir’s life, he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. He continued to paint, with Gabrielle’s assistance. She would carefully place paint brushes between his disfigured fingers. By doing so, Renoir could continue to produce art from 1917-1919.
The American connection
In 1921, Gabrielle married an American painter, Conrad Hensler Slade (1871-1955). They had a son, Jean (named after Renoir’s son). Following the occupation of France by the Germans during WWII, Gabrielle and her family moved to the United States. There, Jean, who had taken Renoir’s famous last name for himself, as Jean Renoir, became a Hollywood film director.
After Conrad Slade’s death in 1955, Gabrielle moved to Los Angeles to be near her son and live out her days. She died at her home in Beverly Hills in 1959. History doesn’t remember her so much, but she was a central figure in the life of one of fine art’s true giants. Her assistance in all facets of his life helped Renoir be as prolific as he was.
About Pierre Auguste Renoir
Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in the manufacturing town of Limoges, France, in 1841. His family moved to Paris when he was four. He took an early interest in graphic arts. At age 13 he went to work for a ceramics firm, painting flowers on porcelain. Later he took a job decorating fans. In 1861 he enrolled at the Gleyre atelier, where Sisely, Monet and Bazille were studying.
Renoir went on to become a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles. His paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated color, frequently focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. The painting to be auctioned is a fine example of his work.
Online bidding will be via bidLIVE.Bruneauandco.com, LiveAuctioneers.com, Invaluable.com and Bidsquare.com, or by downloading the mobile app “Bruneau & Co.” on iTunes or GooglePlay. To learn more about Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers and the firm’s calendar of upcoming auctions, visit www.bruneauandco.com. Contact the company via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.