This visually pleasing and stimulating still life depicts glorious red and white blossoms in a blue vase, situated just slightly off-centre, that is itself decorated with flowers. Spread on the table beside the vase, in two distinct and agreeably unequal groupings, are a collection of grapes, peaches and pears.
The term still life derives from the Dutch word stilleven. Still Life Flowers and Fruit is one of many examples of Renoir’s work within this particular genre.
Still life has been a common theme for artists from all manner of different movements over the years, long before Renoir's career and still continuing in the present day. Georges Braque and Juan Gris produced countless still life artworks in a Cubist style, alongside spearhead Pablo Picasso.
Georges Braque's Violin and Pitcher and Juan Gris' Bottle, Newspaper and Fruit Bowl offer some of the best contributions to the Cubist art movement.
Paul Cezanne also famously used still life content as a way of practising lighting and colour, much as Monet had done with his water lilies and haystack ensembles.
Whilst some of Renoir’s still life paintings depict only fruit or flowers, this exquisite oil on canvas portrays a more complex composition, with three individual elements: the flowers, vase and fruit. It employs the traditional dark, dull background and inanimate subject matter typical of the genre.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s use of bold colours in place of intricate detail captures the essence of Impressionist art, yet Still Life Flowers and Fruit was created in 1889, a time described by some as Renoir’s rejection of impressionism.
His trips to Algeria and Italy in the early 1880s had convinced him of the shortcomings of the Impressionist technique and his later paintings increasingly demonstrate the influence of classicism. Nevertheless, Still Life Flowers and Fruit unarguably exhibits the vibrancy and vivid hues of Impressionism.
Of particular note is the audacious red tone that is employed in the bouquet and in both groupings of fruit, connecting these separate elements and simultaneously bringing balance to the composition. A similar colour is evidenced in many of Renoir’s still lifes, notably Geraniums and Cats (1881) and Anemones (1898).
The beautiful vase is similar, if not identical, to that depicted in Flowers in a Vase (1878), another of Renoir’s works within the still life genre. It is painted with vivid tones that particularly echo those used in the extravagant bouquet. It casts a blue-hued shadow on the otherwise pale cloth underneath it.
This magnificent oil on canvas was painted in the same year that Vincent Van Gogh created the ‘Repetitions’ of his famous Sunflowers painting. There are similarities in the arrangement of these two artworks, but Renoir’s painting is less stylised and therefore arguably more aesthetically pleasing.
Rich, wholesome and enjoyable, this artwork represents the peak of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s expansive career. Just three years after its production, he was afflicted with arthritis that gradually limited his mobility and necessitated changes to his painting technique. Still Life Flowers and Fruit thus stands as a joyous reminder of his unimpeded earlier years.
Mouth-watering, delicious fruits are a hallmark of Renoir’s still lifes. Here, their pairing with stunning flowers creates a glorious celebration of nature’s bounty. Though the fruit is incredibly enticing, it would seem a shame to disturb the lovely scene by sampling even a single grape, yet alone a rosy peach! Perhaps this scene was only ever constructed for visual enjoyment and the fruit was never intended to be eaten.