Where? Gallery 222 of the Cleveland Museum of Art
When? Around 1890
What do you see? On the left, a girl from the country tries to sell apples to Aline Charigot, the wife of Renoir, and two kids. Aline Charigot wears a long light-colored dress, with hints of blue, white, and pink. She wears a hat with a fancy ribbon around it that matches her dress. The boy on the right is the nephew of Renoir, called Edmond. He wears a blue outfit with a blue and yellow hat. It is unknown who the girl in the red dress and the red bow in her hair is. The hat of the girl lays next to her. The apple seller wears a simple outfit with plain colors to indicate her relatively low status. She wears a country hat which largely covers her face and bends forward to show the apples. It seems that she is asking Aline Charigot whether she wants to buy some fresh apples for the kids. In the foreground is a small dog and we can see the contours of a forest in the background. Renoir used very light brushstrokes that are clearly visible on the canvas. This technique creates a unique combination between the light and colors in this painting.
Backstory: Renoir created this painting during one of the summers which he spent in the small village, Essoyes, about 125 miles (200 km) Southeast of Paris. This village was the birthplace of his wife and they later also bought a house there. Renoir and Aline Charigot got married around this time, and Renoir may have painted this on their honeymoon.
Who is Aline Charigot? Aline Charigot (1859-1915) was born in a small village, Essoyes, in France. She met Renoir in 1880 and started modeling for him. However, they soon got into a relationship with each other, and in 1885 they got their first son together. Renoir painted a portrait of Aline Charigot shortly after the birth of their son, which is now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He kept this portrait of her until his death. In 1890, they married. Aline Charigot modeled for at least 20 paintings of Renoir. For example, she is the woman in Dance in the Country in the Musée d’Orsay which Renoir painted in 1883.
Symbolism: While Renoir did not like to include symbolism in his paintings, there seems to be one clear contrast that he wanted to emphasize here. This is related to the contrast in the clothes of the apple seller, and the woman and children on the right. Whereas, the apple seller wears plain clothes with dull colors, the wife of Renoir and the two kids are dressed in fancy outfits. Renoir shows here the difference between the lower and upper-class people in 19th century France because he wanted to depict his wife and the two kids as part of the upper class of society.
Who is Renoir? Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was one of the leading French Impressionist painters. He mainly created colorful paintings of subjects and scenes that he enjoyed, such as scenes with leisure activities, and woman and children. So, most of his paintings do not contain a deeper message. He got inspired by artists such as Degas, Delacroix, Manet, and Rubens. Some of his great works include A Girl with a Watering Can in the National Gallery of Art and La Promenade in the Getty Museum. The latter painting is another good example of a painting in which Renoir integrated his subjects with nature, just like he does in the current painting of the apple seller.
Fun fact: Renoir used quick and long brush strokes, combined with soft colors, to create this painting. He used a separate brush for each color that he used to make sure that he used pure colors for his brush strokes. You can clearly see the long vertical brush strokes in this work. He creates an effect where the scene seems out of focus. Especially, the forest in the background seems blurry, which helps the viewers to focus on the people in the foreground. When you observe the painting from a distance, the content becomes more clear.
Written by Eelco Kappe