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The secret of the little heroine from the Renoir painting ” Girl with a cat»

One of the most famous artists painted a lot of female portraits that have been attracting the attention of art lovers for more than a century and are in the collections of the best museums in the world. Just as magnetic is the portrait of Julie Manet “Girl with a cat”.

Biography Of Renoir
Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges on February 25, 1841. Since childhood, the future artist was forced to work part-time in a porcelain workshop. In 1862, Renoir entered the School of fine arts at the Academy of fine arts, where he met Monet. With the latter, Renoir was later linked by a strong friendship and work in a single direction in art (impressionism).Renoir and Monet together studied the artistic side of such a natural phenomenon as the reflection of water and developed their own technique for depicting this phenomenon with light strokes. Renoir received his first recognition in 1874 at the first great exhibition at Nadar, where he was noted as a portrait painter. Next, he was expected to take creative trips to Algeria and Italy. At the end of his life, which he spent in the South of France, being paralyzed, he asked to put a brush in his hand so that he could continue to write. So were his last words, demanding a palette and paint.

Renoir was attracted to the portrait genre, writing a lot of women portraits of beautiful women. Back in Argenteuil, studying the reflection in the water, the artist replaced the drawn line with light strokes. And he used the same technique not only in landscapes, but also in portraits of women. Renoir managed to create a really new vision of a woman, making light play on the face and clothes. For the rest of his life, Renoir sought out female models. One of them was a young girl who became the heroine of the portrait “Girl with a cat”.

History of creating a portrait
The painting “Girl with a cat” depicts the nine-year-old niece of Edouard Manet, the daughter of his brother Eugene and the artist Berthe Morizot. Julie’s parents had known Renoir for many years and their friendship became even stronger in the second half of the 1880s. Admiration for the artist’s talent and long-term acquaintance with him convinced the couple to Commission a portrait of their daughter Julie in 1887. Looking at the child, Renoir noticed the highlight of the girl-incredibly kind and deep eyes of little Julie. It is enough to see how the cat “smiles”, blinking with pleasure, in her tender hands. It seems as if at the moment of posing, she purrs in gratitude to her little mistress. The heroine holds the cat on her lap. Pierre had a special love for these animals, many of his works are portraits with various cats. To date, at least four preparatory drawings for the picture are known. After making several versions of various positions of the model, Renoir quickly decided on the final composition.

The artist depicted a girl sitting in a large chair. She is wearing a white dress with expensive gold trim on the chest and sleeves. The round child’s face looks slightly to the side, while the gaze is not directed at the viewer. Julie recalled the process as follows: Renoir painted this portrait, in her words, “in small sections, which was unusual for him. When Degas saw the portrait, he was not very positive: “Depicting round faces, Renoir like drawing flower pots.” I must say that this new turn in Renoir’s work, characterized by special attention to line and drawing and the use of bright colors, upset many of his close friends. But the main thing is that Julie’s parents liked the portrait very much.
The character’s personality
Julie Manet (November 14, 1878 – July 14, 1966) was a French artist, model, and art collector. Portrait of Julie Manet was the girl’s first work as a model for Renoir. However, this was not the only time she posed for him. Renoir painted her portrait as a teenager in 1894. Julie Manet also appears in several paintings by her mother, the artist Berthe Morizot, and posed for other impressionist artists, including her uncle, Edouard Manet.

The only, desired and beloved child in the family, born in the creative environment of artists, the girl also grew up in the circle of Impressionists. Close friends and associates of the couple of her parents, including Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Stephane mallarmet, later became her mentors and close friends.
And suddenly this life full of colors and brightness was overshadowed by a series of tragedies… First, her father became ill and died — this happened shortly before, at the age of 15, Julie began to keep a diary, which became her salvation from loneliness and depression. In March 1895, her beloved mother died. Three years later, another disaster struck her — the sudden death of her guardian, Stefan Mallarme. The reflection of sad events in the family and fascinating conversations about art with famous family friends are reflected in the published diary of the girl “Growing up with the Impressionists”, thanks to which Julie received special fame. It gives a very clear idea of the life of French artists, as well as of the state visit of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896 to Paris. It is noteworthy that her Frank letters shed light on Renoir’s personal views on patriotism and anti-Semitism. In may 1900, Julie married the painter and engraver Ernest Ruard, father and son of the artist Henri Ruard. Interestingly, the wedding was a double ceremony in which Julie’s cousin jenine Gobillard married Paul Valerie on the same day. The marriage of Julie and Ernest produced three children: Julien (b. 1901), Clement (1906) and Denis (1908).

Thus, the work “Girl with a cat” refers to a new period of creativity of the master, which includes a rethinking of his creative path. A trip to Italy and an introduction to the Renaissance opened up new painting techniques for Renoir (masterly creations of Ingres, characterized by clear lines of drawing). Renoir saw in them the beauty of true art. The portrait of Julie Manet is a great example of Renoir’s research and innovations of that time. The painting is also successful in the sensitivity and affection that the artist reflected in the relationship between the heroine and the cat. The painting is now in the Orsay Museum in Paris.

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