The Dancer, 1874 by Pierre Auguste Renoir


The Dancer, 1874


Pierre Auguste Renoir

Ref GM3129
Type Fine Art Print
Image Size 16" x 24" (40 x 60 cm)
Price Add to basket
The Dancer was one of seven works that Renoir included in the first exhibition of the Société anonyme cooperative des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs,etc., which opened in April 1874. In contrast to works by most of the other artists in the group – soon to be dubbed the Impressionists – Renoir’s paintings were relatively well received. The Dancer in particular was singled out for attention. While some dismissed it as being little more than a sketch and lacking in good draughtsmanship (the same criticisms levelled at many of the works on display), others found it graceful and charming, praising its realism and originality of conception The Dancer inevitably calls to mind the work of Renoir’s fellow impressionist Edgar Degas, whose name is now synonymous with depictions of ballet dancers. In contrast to Degas, whose interest lay in depicting dancers in repose, captured in unguarded and unselfconscious moments, Renoir chose to paint a more formal portrait. Both the painting’s scale and the figure’s prominence hark back to traditional portraits, lending this work a gravity somewhat at odds with the painting’s modern subject. Shown in profile, her silk-slippered feet placed in classic fifth position, Renoir’s dancer is poised and alert as she turns her gaze towards the viewer. Renoir accentuated the dancer’s youth, highlighting the roundness of her face, the still boyish flatness of her chest, even the way the fingers of her left hand appear to toy nervously with the tulle of her skirt. Ultimately, however, Renoir’s virtuoso brushwork is the painting’s most compelling feature. His paint handling is varied, ranging from the delicate brushstrokes that define the dancer’s face to the loose, almost careless application of paint in the picture’s background. The dancer’s skirt is a true tour de force; Renoir masterfully captured the gauzy softness of the tulle. It floats about her body like a cloud, seeming to dissolve into the hazy background, the fabric as light and insubstantial as mist.