A Girl with a Watering Can, 1876 by Pierre Auguste Renoir


A Girl with a Watering Can, 1876


Pierre Auguste Renoir

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Renoir seems to have painted this picture in the hope that it would please a large audience. The first impressionist exhibition in 1874 had brought Renoir and his artists more notoriety than business, and the auction he optimistically organised for his own work the following year was a financial disaster. Renoir, the son of a tailor, was in a constant struggle for money in his early career, so he began to paint charming, light-filled scenes with women and children in the hopes of increasing sales. An example of these works, ‘A Girl with a Watering Can’, displays a mature impressionist style attuned to the specific requirements of figure painting. Renoir’s colours reflect the freshness and radiance of the impressionist palette, while his handling is more controlled and regular than in his landscapes, with even brushstrokes applied in delicate touches, especially in the girl’s face. Brilliant prismatic hues of blues, greens and reds envelop the child in an atmosphere of warm light and charmingly convey her innocent appeal. Specific identifications have been proposed for the girl, but none is convincing. More likely, Renoir depicted a neighbourhood child whose pretty features pleased him. A girl with similar curly blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, plump pink cheeks, and smiling red lips appears, dressed the same way in other paintings by Renoir, suggesting she was a favourite figure in the artist’s repertory. ‘A Girl with a Watering Can’ is a showcase of the grace and charm of the artist’s work.