Gabrielle Renard, a relative of Madame Renoir, entered the family’s service in 1894 and stayed with them for almost twenty years. Utterly devoted to the children, she was a second mother to them, and is often pictured with Jean, the future film director, in paintings that form a veritable chronicle of the painter’s family life. In 1910 she married the American painter Conrad Slade who had come to work with Renoir.
Gabrielle features in around two hundred of Renoir’s paintings, making her one of his favourite models. He uses her here as a pretext for studying the light, which is bleaching the colour from the ground and her apron. The technique, a light, almost transparent frottis, lends itself well to the true subject of this study: the sensation of being dazzled by the sun.
The history of the painting is obscure. There is nothing to prove that it was purchased by Paul Guillaume. It could have been one of the Renoir paintings bought by Domenica Walter. It appears in her file as one of the works she intended to bequeath to the Musée du Louvre.
Provenance: Ambroise Vollard (1918); Valentine Gallery, New York (1937?); Domenica Walter