Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Confidence, 1897

Art styles
Author / at ottobre 22, 2018
From Christie's auction house | - This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue critique of Pierre-Auguste Renoir🎨 being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute established from the archives of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.
Painted in 1897, Confidence captures a couple in a private moment of conversation, the woman's lips slightly parted as she leans in to speak, the man's head lowered in a posture of concentration.
The intimacy of the scene is emphasized by the extremely close vantage point, with both heads abruptly cropped by the edges of the canvas. Renoir's focus is on the figures' overlapping profiles, which interlock like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
The dialogue between their forms is heightened by the light that enters from the direction of the viewer, reflecting off the side of the man's face while casting the woman's features into shadow. At the same time, the scene is unified by the warm, restrained palette of cream, russet, and dark brown.


The bow at the nape of the woman's neck provides a rosy pink accent, the color of which is echoed in the ruddy blush on the man's cheek. The background is rendered principally in a rich, chocolate brown, with a narrow band of a silky, cream-colored curtain visible at the left. Renoir thus provides just enough descriptive detail to place the scene in a bourgeois domestic interior, but not enough to distract from the immediacy of the central exchange.
After abandoning scenes of modern life around 1883 to focus on timeless depictions of l'éternel féminin, Renoir had returned to contemporary subjects in earnest in the early 1890s. Over the course of this decade, his paintings of fashionably dressed women -often in pairs, either talking, reading, or playing the piano- found an exceptionally strong market and contributed to his mounting fame and commercial success.
Unlike his genre paintings of the 1870s, which are principally set in the bustling public spaces of Paris and its suburbs (the cafés, boulevards, parks, theaters, and dance halls), these later modern costume pieces most often depict their sitters against broadly brushed, indeterminate backgrounds or safely ensconced in comfortable domestic interiors.
Moreover, whereas the interaction of men and women in the public sphere had been a key theme in Renoir's earlier work (witness, for example, the flirtatious exchanges and unfolding romantic possibilities that pervade Au Moulin de la Galette, 1876, and Le Déjeuner des canotiers, 1880), his paintings from the 1890s depict an almost exclusively female realm, with men relegated to the background or sides of the image, or more often, omitted entirely.

Barbara Ehrlich White has written:
"Gone are the romance and flirtation of Renoir's bachelor years; now he celebrates the stability and comfort of middle-class life" (Renoir: His Life, Art, and Letters, New York, 1984, p. 208).

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