On his return from a visit to Italy in 1881 where he had been studying the old masters, and in particular the paintings of Raphaël, Renoir reached a turning point in his career in 1883. "About 1883, a sort of break occurred in my work. I had got to the end of Impressionism and had reached the conclusion that I could neither paint nor draw. In short, I had reached an impasse." he declared to Ambroise Vollard. Dated 1883, this canvas takes up a traditional subject that Renoir had already treated - the bather. In a timeless waterside setting, a nude woman, her brown hair pinned up, is seated on a white cloth, drying her leg with it. However, although the landscape in the background is still impressionistic, the treatment of the female body reveals a shift in the painter’s style. In fact, the contours and the lines attest to a more confident style than before, announcing the development that led him, between 1884 and 1887, to produce his great masterpiece Les Grandes Baigneuses [The Large Bathers], now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some historians believe that the model for the painting in the Musée de l’Orangerie bears a resemblance to the painter Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938) whom Renoir often painted at this time.
Provenance: Bernheim-Jeune; Gillou; Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter