My favorite painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir is Two Sisters on the Terrace (1881) and can be found in the permanent collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. A framed print of this painting has also been a permanent fixture in our dining room since 1998 as we gathered around our table with our four daughters to enjoy Mom’s delicious meals, Dad’s corny jokes, laughter, occasional tears, and many life-long friends. As we have moved through the years from Mabank to Milwaukee, back to Texas (Canyon) and now El Paso , these two sisters always find a prominent place in our home.
Aesthetically, this painting is very pleasing to the eye and has been praised by Renoir’s critics as one of his finest. Renoir uses deep blue’s in the older sister’s dress and the younger sister’s hat and kerchief, golden yellows in the basket and autumn leaves, contrasting a stark white in the little girls blouse and carnations, and finally the crimson reds which become the focal point of the painting and draws you eye to the little girl’s checks and ruby lips. Renoir mixes his wonderful palette to hold our attention.
In addition, I love the expressions that he gives his characters. The older sister is looking off to the side, perhaps watching the action in the café behind the artist, holding her pose carefully. And then, the younger girl rushes in at the last minute, placing her little hands on the basket of yarn, looking right at the viewer, wanting to be part of the picture but can only hold still for a short time. How tranquil to relax in a cafe on the Seine and hear the oarsmen rowing by which is also a common theme in Caillebotte’s work.
Renoir had a great ability to capture the beautiful innocence of children in every-day life. He showed this painting at the Second Exhibition of the Impressionists in 1876.
Copyright 2016 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)