Renoir’s masterpiece in our collection

Another historic acquisition

Auguste Renoir: Reclining Nude, 1903, Oil on canvas, 65.3 x 155.3 cm

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. The purchase is the museum’s second historic acquisition within a short span of time as Van Dyck’s Wedding Portrait of Princess Mary Henrietta Stuart was added to the collection at the beginning of this year, also thanks to the support of the Government.

Renoir’s almost life-size nude, painted in 1903, was bought for 12.3 million US dollars (3.5 billion forints), making it the highest value acquisition of a single work of the past one hundred years in the museum’s history.

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 on 24 May at a dossier exhibition organised around this historic acquisition.

One of the most celebrated French Impressionists, Renoir is regarded as the painter of life’s joy and pleasure. He placed the human figure at the focus of his delightful genre pictures and attractive portraits, and nudes also formed a permanent part of his oeuvre. His recently purchased, almost life-size, impressive Reclining Nude pays tribute to the greatest masters of the genre, above all to Titian and Ingres, while it is also a fine example of the French master’s very own sensuous vision. This picture from Renoir’s classicising period, i.e. from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, is distinguished by restrained brushwork and a harmonious palette. It shows Gabrielle Renard, one of the painter’s favourite models, who inspired many of his late masterpieces. Renoir painted this composition in several variations by modifying it to varying degrees, of which three are known. The Hungarian acquisition is the first version and the other two can be found in the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

Already an accomplished, celebrated painter, Renoir first exhibited the Reclining Nude (1903) at the 1905 Salon d’Automne (Autumn Salon) in Paris, where he represented the already established modern tradition able to renew itself besides the artists of the new Avant-garde generation. Since then, the nude, a well-known and outstanding work in Renoir’s oeuvre, has been included in numerous prestigious shows, among them in the National Salon held in Budapest in December 1907. In the last more than one hundred years, the picture has formed part of several prominent European and American private collections, including that of Baron Maximilian von Goldschmidt-Rothschild, one of the wealthiest German bankers and art collectors of his time.

The newly acquired masterpiece will go on public view at the dossier exhibition to open on 24 May in the company of an earlier Renoir painting (Portrait of a Girl) in the Museum of Fine Arts’ collection and some other modern works – by Gauguin, Cézanne, Boudin, Maurice Denis, Daubigny, Pissarro and Puvis de Chavannes – that entered the museum’s collection in the first half of the 20th century.

Auguste Renoir: Reclining Nude
Oil on canvas
65.3 x 155.3 cm

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