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Pierre–Auguste Renoir lived through the impressionist era, which influenced most of his paintings, The Two Sisters inclusive
In this piece of art, the flowers on the background have bloomed with life, while the flowers on the ladies' dresses show freshness and attachment to nature.
The two sisters wore bright clothes which depicts youthfulness and subscription to Impressionism, which was widely used at that time.
On the Terrace
This piece of art was an inspiration Renoir got on the terrace of the Maison Fournaise, (Furnace House) an inn located on an island in Chatou, Western suburb of Paris.
The serene area overlooked River Seine; the modern day commercial gateway into Paris via sea. The painting was of two models; a young woman and her younger sister seated on a bench outside, carrying a basket filled with all sorts of coloured balls of wool.
It is believed that the young woman was Jeanne Darlot, (1863 – 1914, who later became an actress). She was approximately 18 years of age when the painting was drawn. The younger sister was not identified, neither are the two related.
The Two Sisters was 100.5 centimetres in length and 81 centimetres in width, painted between April 19th and July 1881. Painted using oil on canvas, the painting was done when Renoir was transitioning to classicism from impressionism; a time when colour and outline were the central themes shaping artistic drawings. The painting was a reflection of beauty and the serenity of the springs.
Jan Vermeer was another artist passionate about capturing women in art. His best known paintings included Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Milkmaid and also the stunning landscape painting, View of Delft.
The older lady character indirectly represents the blossoming and liveliness, with confidence written on her face. Her arms are interlocked to show contentment or surety. The younger sister is an epitome of purity and innocence there to come, underscored by the sky-blue eyes.
The flowers on her hut envision a fresh and bright approach to life from an innocent soul. The balls of wool on the basket indicates the different complexion that we use to knit (define) life, while the little girl clutching on the basket depicts the innocent reliance on these attributes for survival. The river symbolise the continuous passing momentum, as it nourishes the surroundings. In essence, Renoir was cautious of the phases of growth in humanity, the surroundings, and their influence on progression in life.
Ownership and Exhibitions
The painting was bought by Paul Durand – Ruel, a French art dealer in 1881, for 1500 Francs. He later renamed the painting Two Sisters On the Terrace. It was first exhibited in the 7th Impressionist Exhibition in 1882, Charles Ephrussi Collection in 1883, and back to the Durand - Ruel family in early 1890s. In 1925, the painting was sold for $100,000 to an American, Annie Coburn. After her death in 1932, the painting was entrusted to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it is housed to date.