Auguste Renoir

Mother and Child

c.1916, cast 1927

Original title
Mère et enfant
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Object: 533 x 235 x 318 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Sir Thomas D. Barlow 1929
Reference
N04435

Display caption

In his last years Renoir made a number of sculptures using the female form to symbolise a benign relationship between human beings and nature. This informal study of a woman breast-feeding a baby was based on a painting executed many years earlier, in 1885, of Mme Renoir nursing their first child, Pierre. Soon after Mme Renoir's death in 1915, the artist happened to see the painting again, and this gave him the idea of commemorating his wife, who had been a devoted housewife and mother, in a sculpture. Renoir suffered from arthritis at this period, and the bronze was fashioned by Richard Guino under the artist's instruction and using the painting as a basis.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Auguste Renoir 1841-1919

N04435 M?re et Enfant (Mother and Child) c.1916

Inscribed '10/20' 'Renoir' and founder's stamp 'CIRE | C. VALSUANI | PERDUE' on l. side of base
Bronze, 21 x 9 1/4 x 12 1/2 (53.5 x 23.5 x 32)
Presented by Sir Thomas D. Barlow 1929
Prov: With Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin (joint editor of the bronze); Sir Thomas D. Barlow, Manchester
Exh: [?Renoir: Gem?lde aus dem Besitze seiner S?hne und seine Skulpturen, Galerie Flechtheim, Berlin, October-November 1928 (sculpture 3), dated c.1915]; RSA, Edinburgh, April-July 1948 (13); Renoir, RSA, Edinburgh, August-September 1953 (48, repr.); Tate Gallery, September-October 1953 (48, repr.); Pioneers of Modern Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, London, July-September 1973 (169)
Lit: Julius Meier-Graefe, Renoir (Leipzig 1929), pp.390-4, plaster repr. p.403 (dated c.1916); Paul Haesaerts, Renoir Sculptor (New York 1947), No.17, pp.29-30, 41-2, plaster repr. pl.32 (dated 1916)
Repr: Kunst und Kunstler, XXVI, 1928, p.155 (the plaster)

Madame Renoir nursing her first baby Pierre, born in 1885. Renoir had executed two paintings of this subject in 1885 and 1886, as well as several drawings. Soon after Mme Renoir's death on 27 June 1915, he happened to set eyes again on the first painted version and this gave him the idea to commemorate his wife, who had been a very devoted housewife and mother, in a sculpture. The group was executed by Richard Guino at Essoyes under his guidance, using the first painting as a basis. Renoir also took up the theme again in a third painting which, though dated 1918 by A. Andr? and M. Elder (L'Atelier de Renoir, Paris 1931, No.596), was probably made at about the same time.

According to Haesaerts, the 'Mother and Child' was intended as a study for a large statue to be placed on Mme Renoir's tomb at Essoyes, but 'the large statue was never executed: only the head was rendered in larger dimensions'. However the head used on the tomb seems to be a separate project as it was based on a different painting and was apparently conceived within only three or four weeks of Mme Renoir's death. (There is a letter from Renoir dated 23 July 1915 in which he asks Guino to come to Essoyes as soon as possible; he is to model a bust after a painting of a seated woman).

The 'Mother and Child' was cast in bronze in 1927 for the dealers Hodebert (Galerie Hodebert-Barbazanges) of Paris, and Flechtheim of Dusseldorf and Berlin, the joint editors. The casts were made by Valsuani in Paris under the supervision of Charles Despiau. Besides the edition of 20 bronzes, there is also at least one copy in terracotta.

Pierre Renoir (1885-1952) became a distinguished actor; he was closely associated with Louis Jouvet.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.626-7, reproduced p.626