In this double portrait Renoir attempted to capture the present moment, a brief emotion, a certain light. Most probably painted outdoors, this small canvas depicts one of Renoir's friends and champions, Georges Rivière (1855-1943), and an unknown young woman. The latter nevertheless appears in several of the artist's paintings.
Renoir painted a number of individual portraits of Georges Rivière, who helped make the artist known and introduced him to the Parisian salons in the 1870s. His daughter Hélène Rivière married Edmond Renoir, the painter's nephew.
The two figures, shown in head-and-shoulders view here, stand out from the green background. The contrast is accentuated by their dark clothes, with only their white collars and their faces to lighten the ensemble. Georges Rivière is gazing at the young woman intently, who in turn is smiling. A feeling of sweet complicity emanates from the painting.
The canvas demonstrates the research Renoir was conducting at the time. It is brought to life with long and vigorous strokes. The vegetable background is simply sketched. The two figures are depicted out of focus. Only the search for the fleeting light matters to the artist.
Provenance: Ambroise Vollard (?); Paul Guillaume (?); Domenica Walter