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Renoir: Reclining Nude

Michelangelo Hall - 23 May 2019 - 4 August 2019

The collection of the Museum of Fine Arts has been augmented with a masterpiece by one of the foremost Impressionist artists: Auguste Renoir. The museum was able to buy the master’s Reclining Nude through the support of the Hungarian Government. Renoir’s Reclining Nude was already displayed in Hungary more than 110 years ago: at a National Salon exhibition in 1907, but at the time the museum did not have the necessary funds to acquire it. Now, thanks to the generous support of the Government, Renoir’s masterpiece can return to Budapest and find its permanent home in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts: the nude will debut at a dossier exhibition organised around this historic acquisition.

In 1907, the National Salon held a series of three major exhibitions, all associated with shows that were touring Europe to popularise the latest achievements in French painting. Pride of place at the first show, held in May, was occupied by the works of Paul Gauguin. In June the second exhibition arrived, initiated by the leaders of the Museum of Fine Arts, which had opened just a few months earlier (in December 1906). Their aim was to look for potential new acquisitions for the museum’s collection, and the state approved the purchase of five paintings: a work each by Charles-François Daubigny, Eugène Boudin, Alfred Sisley, and Camille Pissarro, as well as Paul Gauguin’s Winter Landscape. The latter deserves a special mention, because it was only the previous year, at the great exhibition in Paris, that the European public became aware of Paul Gauguin’s name. (The painting by Sisley was later given to the Berlin art dealer, Kurt Walter Bachstitz, in part exchange for Édouard Manet’s masterpiece, Lady with a Fan). In December 1907, Budapest’s third exhibition of French painting that year, Great Modern French Masters, attracted enormous attention and provided visitors with a comprehensive idea of the painterly reforms taking place in Paris. Following the purchases made that summer, however, the Museum of Fine Arts no longer had the means to enrich its collection further.

The December show featured eleven paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, including his Female Nude (listed in the catalogue as a Woman at Rest), one of the highlights of the exhibition. Now, after a century and a decade, thanks to generous support from the Hungarian government, the painting has finally been purchased for the Museum of Fine Arts.

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 5:45 pm, closed on Mondays

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 am – 5:45 pm, closed on Mondays

Renoir’s masterpiece in our collection

Renoir’s masterpiece in our collection

I love art that conveys a sense of eternity without proclaiming it. The kind of eternity that captivated me on the next corner: I saw a maid stop scrubbing dishes and transform into an Olympian goddess for a moment.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Highlights, curiosities

One of the most celebrated French impressionists, Pierre-Auguste Renoir is renowned as a painter of joie de vivre. In his cheerful genre scenes and his delightful portraits, the human figure takes centre stage, and throughout his career he kept returning to the genre of the nude. In this impressive, almost lifesize painting titled Reclining Nude, Renoir pays homage to the great masters of the genre, above all Titian and Ingres, while maintaining his own sensual touch. The frontal pose enhances the profile of the female body and the gentle curve of her hips.

With extraordinary aplomb, the painter has conveyed her milky white skin, the silky sheen of her dense black hair, and the bright patches of colour in her cheeks and in the rose. The painting exemplifies the classicising style in which Renoir worked at the turn of the century, characterised by restrained brushwork and harmonious colouring. The woman in the painting, Gabrielle Renard, was one of the artist’s favourite models, and the inspiration for many of his later masterpieces.

This was the earliest of three versions of this composition, painted with a number of alterations. The later versions are both in Paris, in the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie. The work was painted in 1903 and first exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1905, where Renoir, unlike the avant-garde members of the younger generation, was already a mature and successful painter, an established exponent of the modern tradition, yet still capable of breaking new ground.

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