The single largest archive of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's personally owned objects from his signature polka-dot scarf to a collection of 20 original plaster maquettes including the most ambitious sculpture executed by Renoir and Richard Guino, La Grande Venus Victrix , which was found stored in a shed after Renoir's death will highlight an expansive grouping dedicated to the Impressionist icon in Heritage Auctions' presentation of The Renoir Estate Collection Signature® Auction, Sept. 19 in New York.
The collection is an intimate glimpse inside the personal and professional life of the master painter through a trove of important documents, including his marriage certificate, photographs and letters written to Renoir from friends and contemporaries such as Monet, Manet, and Rodin.
The collection of original sculptural plaster maquettes were created at Renoir's estate in Cagnes, France, in the twilight of his career. Battling severe arthritis, Renoir collaborated with a young and able-handed artist, Guino, at his dealer Ambroise Vollard's suggestion. Together, Renoir and Guino selected which drawings and paintings would work as sculptures, and they set to work.
Included among the sculptural offerings is likely the auction's top lot — a 72 inch tall original plaster maquette for La Grande Venus Victrix, the Roman goddess. After the opening of the Renoir museum, La Grande Venus Victrix was returned to Claude Renoir (Coco) and placed in the garden at Les Collettes prior to traveling to Canada.
"This museum-level collection is superb in its completeness and reveals volumes about the man and his art," said Brian Roughton, Managing Director of Fine Art at Heritage Auctions. "It touches every
corner of his life and represents the last time this collection will appear assembled ever again. In addition to the personal letters and objects, we're also thrilled to have the opportunity to offer 20 carefully collected original plaster maquettes, not as vehicles to make bronzes but rather as individual
works of art which stand on their own artistic merit. Among the maquettes, Heritage is offering "Coco," one of the only plaster maquettes that Renoir produced himself, depicting his young son Claude.
The staggering amount of life documents, awards and ephemera includes rarities such as an American
Medal of Honor awarded to Renoir at the 1883 Foreign Exhibition and an album of candid family photographs featuring Henri Matisse among other notable artists of the day.
The archive also includes rarely seen objects likely made for the artist's eyes only, such as a diminutive polychrome ceramic vase and sugar bowl thrown and painted with his father at Les Collettes as Renoir recuperated at after being shot during World War I.
by P.M. Grand / May 1963
Rilke was the first to see that Rodin can be understood through the details of his work and methods far better than through his grandiose ideas. Of course, the sculptor made ambitious plans-The Gates of Hell are populated by The Thinker, Adam and The Three Shades in the High Romantic style of the Eroica Symphony. But most of Rodin’s vast monumental projects remained incomplete, and some of them are apt to exasperate, where they do not actually disappoint. Rodin trusted the great traditional “subjects,” the noble categories and “missions” of High Art. A man of the people, he never questioned the popular belief in the artist’s responsibility to history nor his rather naïve faith in messages. He was comforted by these sentimental theories in the long period of material difficulty at the beginning of his career. When he became a success—and wore the bearded face of Inspired Genius—fame lent confirmation to his candid faith, and he became the rather shallow priest of a neo-paganism for which the handsome Nijinsky supplied the apparitions of a living god. Rodin was self-educated; a few trips abroad and contacts with Italian and Classic works gave him an enthusiasm which was more intuitive than informed. In fact, Rodin’s utterances were never far from the stereotypes of his time, and, paradoxically, the artist finished his career as a
rich bourgeois, with his palace in Paris, country houses, collections, mistresses, a cellar-full of excellent burgundies. His “power” was worldly, but, luckily, he was always temperamentally attracted to what he thought was the intellectual and metaphysical life.
— From “Rodin: Genius with giblets,” by P.M. Grand, May 1963