Spring Bouquet Pierre-Auguste Renoir Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Spring Bouquet painted in 1866, is a still life in oils by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. A riot of summer flowers cascades from a Japanese willow pattern vase that sits on worn paving stones, the petals and leaves bright with the warmth of the sun.

There is a vividness to the palette that Renoir uses here, the flowers brought to life with a high tonal value and delicate shading giving a transparency and life to the fine, delicate petals. The foliage is represented by vibrant sharp greens with a hint of reflection, shadows below each leaf dark and black, helping to create a convincing sense of depth. This balance of light and shadow is what brings realism to the picture and evokes the sense of a painting executed in natural sunlight. The wide tonal range and the expert handling of the light combined with the accuracy of the depiction of the forms brings this painting to life.

At the age of 13, Pierre-August Renoir became an apprentice at a porcelain factory where he learned how to copy decorative floral designs on to the pieces. The porcelain factory closed in 1858 and Renoir was forced to find private work where his decorative painting skills could be utilised. In 1862 Renoir began studying in Charles Gleyre's studio where he met Claude Monet, Frédéric Bazille and Alfred Sisely. They became friends and under the expert tutelage of Gleyre, Renoir began to acquire the necessary skills of a painter.

Pierre-Auguste and his new found friends would paint outdoors in the forest of Fontainebleau, drawn to the natural light and beauty of the location. Painting outdoors (known as "plein air") was virtually unheard of at this time. The traditional method for an artist was to paint in the more formal setting of a studio where light and materials could be more easily controlled. After the artist had gathered preliminary sketches from locations, the final piece would be composed of a selection of source materials and drawings. This was unsatisfactory to this new group of friends as they felt that painting on location aided their abilities to see and render light and colour naturally as it presented itself to them and not just formed artificially from memories and notes taken on site.

So here we have the roots of Impressionism, four artists training in the techniques of oil painting, learning their craft with brush and oils, experimenting outdoors with capturing the essence of form and light. With "Spring Bouquet" we find Pierre-Auguste Renoir exhibiting his skill in the art of mixing colours and brush work, of composition and draughtsmanship. The execution of this painting is a hint of things to come with its wonderful sense of light and colour. Though its sharply delineated outlines and adherence to formal execution are still more in the formal classical style it signals the great expressive work that is yet to come.