The Umbrellas by Pierre Auguste Renoir

The Umbrellas by Pierre Auguste Renoir

In this episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at The Umbrellas by Pierre-Auguste Renoir which was painted between 1881- 86 and is displayed at the National Gallery, London. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture. I’ll be popping in and out with commentary as this video progresses but for now let’s take a close up look.

“The Umbrellas” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, painted between 1881 and 1886 is a significant work of art from the Impressionist period. It is divided into two sections, showcasing a stark contrast in social classes. In the foreground, we see elegantly dressed individuals, primarily women. This area of the painting is characterized by vibrant colours and a lively atmosphere, quintessential of Impressionism.

The background presents a different narrative. Here, a woman and a child share a single, large umbrella, highlighting the economic disparities of the time. This visual juxtaposition between the carefree upper class and the struggling lower class is a notable feature of the painting. Renoir’s use of colour is striking, with the colourful dresses and umbrellas in the foreground creating a cheerful ambiance, while the muted tones in the background emphasize the sombre, less fortunate aspect of society. The leftward figure is none other than Suzanne Valadon, Renoir’s lover, a young lady of fiery rebellion and irresistible passion, still in her teenage years when the painting’s creation commenced. If you’re a follower of the channel you will be aware that she was Erik Satie’s only girlfriend because we have visited her apartment in a previous video.

Renoir’s distinctive loose and expressive brushwork, characteristic of the Impressionist style, is a key element of the painting. It captures the play of light and shadow, giving the scene a sense of movement and immediacy. The technique evolves as the painting was revisited and reworked over several years, demonstrating Renoir’s growth as an artist and his dedication to experimenting with different approaches.

One of the most significant aspects of “The Umbrellas” is its social commentary. The painting serves as a poignant commentary on the societal inequality in late 19th-century Paris. It beautifully captures the stark contrast between the upper and lower classes, providing a snapshot of the social issues and economic disparities of the era.