Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando (Francisca and Angelina Wartenberg), 1879 by Pierre Auguste Renoir


Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando (Francisca and Angelina Wartenberg), 1879


Pierre Auguste Renoir

Ref GM3128
Type Fine Art Print
Image Size 12" x 16" (30 x 40 cm)
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In this work, Renoir has signalled his interest in the themes of urban leisure favoured by fellow impressionists. One of four permanent circuses in Paris, the Cirque Fernando opened in Montmartre in 1875, attracting an enthusiastic following that included members of the Impressionist circle. Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s painting features Francisca Wartenberg (left) and her sister, Angelina, members of an itinerant German acrobatic troupe. Aged 17 and 14 respectively, the girls take their bows after a performance, gathering up the tissue-wrapped oranges tossed to them as tributes by appreciative members of the audience. Although Renoir’s brother, an art critic, described this work as “a faithful painting of modern life,” in fact the artist adjusted and transformed the reality of the Cirque Fernando in several ways. He portrayed Francisca and Angelina Wartenberg as being much younger than their actual ages of 14 and 17. Moreover, he had them pose in his studio, where he could paint them in natural light, which he found to be more flattering than the gaslight of the studio. Renoir created visual harmony by building up forms with thin washes of paint, using delicate, multidirectional brushwork. His highly arbitrary colour scheme emphasises this, with the yellows and oranges of the circus floor appearing in the girls’ costumes, as well as in the delicate reflections of their skin tones.