Auguste Renoir

The Washerwoman


Not on display

Auguste Renoir 1841–1919
Original title
La Laveuse
Object: 1210 × 749 × 1289 mm
Purchased 1950

Display caption

Renoir started to make sculpture only late in his life. Because his hands were crippled with arthritis, 'The Washerwoman' was modelled under Renoir's direction by the young sculptor Richard Guino. Renoir supplied drawings for Guino to translate into sculpture, and several smaller intermediate studies of 'The Washerwoman' were made. It was originally intended as one half of a pair of large figures with the subjects 'Fire' and 'Water', to be symbolised by a blacksmith and a washerwoman respectively. However, relations between Renoir and Guino became strained, and the project was never completed.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Auguste Renoir 1841-1919

N05933 La Laveuse (The Washerwoman) c.1917-18

Inscribed 'Renoir 0' on upper surface of base and (very faintly) 'Alexis Rudier | Fondeur. Paris' on side of base
Bronze, 47 5/8 x 29 1/2 x 50 3/4 (121 x 75 x 129)
Purchased from the Fonderie Alexis Rudier, the founders (Cleve Fund), 1950
Exh: Renoir, RSA, Edinburgh, August-September 1953 (50); Tate Gallery, September-October 1953 (50)
Lit: Waldemar George, 'L'Oeuvre Sculpté de Renoir' in L'Amour de l'Art, 1924, p.340, repr. p.332; Julius Meier-Graefe, Renoir (Leipzig 1929), pp.395-6; Una E. Johnson, Ambroise Vollard, Editeur, 1867-1939 (New York 1944), No.160, p.134; Paul Haesaerts, Renoir Sculptor (New York 1947), No.21, pp.30-2, 42, repr. pls.38-42
Repr: John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1958), pl.12

Renoir planned to make two large statues which would complement each other, the one symbolic of Fire and the other of Water: a young blacksmith heating iron in a stove, a washerwoman rinsing the laundry. According to Haesaerts, Renoir gave Guino the general handling of them by making a few sketchy drawings. Guino made several sculptured studies of the 'Washerwoman' about 35cm high, which varied slightly in the position of the forearms and hands. They were executed at Cagnes on Vollard's order and under Renoir's direction. When these studies were finished, Guino undertook the roughing out of the 'Washerwoman' on a larger scale. He worked without a model, being guided by the small statue of the 'Washerwoman', by certain drawings of Renoir's and by his extraordinary understanding of Renoir's aims. But unfortunately relations between the two artists became difficult and in December 1918 Renoir sent a message to Guino not to continue with the work in progress. Thus the large 'Washerwoman' did not get beyond the rough stage and the large 'Blacksmith' was never executed. Haesaerts says that Renoir 'hardly intervened at all' in the elaboration of the large 'Washerwoman', while according to Meier-Graefe Renoir had not begun his work of revision at the time of the separation and the sculpture was later finished by Guino in accordance with Renoir's intentions.

The large 'Washerwoman' has also been known as 'Water', 'The Large Stooping Washerwoman' and 'The Large Bather'. It was first published by Ambroise Vollard.

During his last years Renoir also made several oil paintings of 'Washerwomen'.

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.627-8, reproduced p.627


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