(b, 1841, Limoges, d. 1919, Cagnes-sur-Mer)
Large Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses)1884-87
Oil on canvas, 118 x 171 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia
Renoir's change of direction between 1884 and 1887 was dictated by an individual approach. The spontaneity of Impressionism, as well as its traditional fondness for landscape, gave way to a gradual elaboration of composition that enabled Renoir to reexamine the problem of the nude in a landscape. For his Large Bathers, Renoir did a number of preliminary designs. Having been a Delacroix admirer in his early years, Renoir here seems to turn toward Ingres, and the way he neatly outlines his shapes places him in the context of the nude that in the 1890s was to preoccupy such artists as Félix Valloton and Charles Maurin.
Faced with criticism of his new style after completing The Large Bathers, an exhausted Renoir never again devoted such painstaking effort to a single work.