Two Sisters on the Terrace is an oil on canvas work which Renoir painted in April 1881. It was first purchased July 7th 1881 for 1500 Francs by art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel.
In 1925 the painting was bought by Annie S. Coburn, at her death the artwork was bequeathed to the Art Institute of Chicago where it has been housed since 1933. Renoir painted Two Sisters on the top terrace of Restaurant Fournaise in the village of Chatou on the banks of the Seine in Paris. It is the same location as Renoir painted Luncheon of the Boating Party, among many of his other works as he was a regular customer there. Despite the title, the two subjects of the painting are not related. The elder sister is modelled by Jeanne Darlot, who later became an actress. Both sisters are well dressed, the elder is wearing a dark blue flannel dress which is enlivened by a bright red hat with a flower. She sits quietly in a chair looking thoughtfully into the distance.
The artist has beautifully captured her serene facial expression and her flawless youthful complexion. The young child looks in wide eyed innocence directly at the artist while remaining close by her sibling, as though needing her reassurance. She is holding their basket with both hands. The sharp contrast of the sisters in the foreground to the landscape behind is achieved by using a softer more natural palette for the background than the vivid colours used for the sister's attire. This delineation between subject and background became more pronounced as he began to move away from Impressionism at about this time. It is Spring and the trees behind the terrace seem to be in early leaf. The vines and plants that snake their way around the ironwork of the terrace are beginning to show fresh new life.
The bold brush strokes here give the idea of the vivacity of nature at this time of year. The painting is an expression of youthfulness and hope. There is a boat behind the sisters on the Seine. The broken reflection of the craft and occupant give an elegant impression of the movement of the water. Renoir would layer his oils in order to first put in the main detail of the composition before then providing focus to specific elements with additional touches of white paint. The larger image below gives a better indication of this, with highlights added to flowers in the sister's two hats and also the elder sister's pocket of flowers which is delicately placed in the right hand side of the front of her coat. Renoir then continues this into the small garden that sits behind them.
Two Sisters (On the Terrace) from 1881 is considered one of the highlights in the collection of the Chicago Art Institute. The popularity of Renoir within the United States remains strong in the present day, and so this work helps to draw many to this institution. There are, however, a number of opposing views about the man himself and also the style and quality of his work, with many debates, sometimes heated, continuing online on a daily basis. Most genuine followers of French art still consider him an integral member of the Impressionist movement and amongst the most highly skilled portrait painter of the last few centuries. Besides this stunning artwork, other key pieces included the likes of Luncheon of the Boating Party, Bal du Moulin de la Galette and Dance at Bougival.
The Chicago Art Institute remains one of the more significant art venues in the US. Besides their collection of Renoir paintings, you will also find the most famous names from the Renaissance and the impressionist movement, as well as everything in between. Their catalogue of European paintings is then joined by a diverse range of other mediums and periods, including some extraordinary Asian and African sculpture. In relation specifically to Renoir, some of the other key pieces include Grant Wood's American Gothic, The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, Van Gogh's Bedroom and also Caillebotte's Paris Street: Rainy Day. Aside from this location, you can also find a huge collection of Renoir artworks at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and also the The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C. as well as many more within continental Europe and also the UK.