Yvonne et Christine Lerolle au piano
The painting, completed in 1897, was purchased by Henry Roujon during the exhibition dedicated to the painter. At the instigation of Stéphane Mallarmé, Roujon intended to create a collection of living artists, of contemporary art, to be permanently exhibited at the Luxembourg Palace in Paris: this is a detail that shows how, at the end of the 19th century, Renoir had by then become one of the most famous French artists. Today the painting is on display at the Musée de l'Orangerie.
Like the previous one, Girls at the Piano, Yvonne and Christine Lerolle au piano is also very significant on the formal level since the pictorial material here is no longer treated with the severely linear style of the previous decade, but with a renewed freshness and a recovery of the chromatic harmonies typical of the impressionist phase of the painter. An optimistic theme, much loved by bourgeois collectors, is portrayed: that of girls in a domestic atmosphere, playing games, reading or - as in this case - exercising music. Renoir describes with great precision various details of the domestic environment in which the girls find themselves, focusing mainly on the two paintings hanging on the wall, in this case Before the race" and "Group of dancers", both by Degas. The dominant colour is the white of the girl's dress in the foreground, which, however, does not resolve itself in the soft luminosity that flooded the Jeunes, creating an all in all cold atmosphere.
Renoir addresses several iconographic models in this paintings canvas. Transparent is the reference to contemporary paintings by Berthe Morisot, an impressionist painter who loved to paint domestic scenes of this type: in the nineteenth century, in fact, the home assumed new meanings, and became a place to escape from the alienating and depersonalizing frenzy of modern civilization. The scene as a whole is also linked to the genre scenes of 17th century Dutch painters, especially Vermeer, the author of paintings that stand out for their tame, pearly quietness.
Renoir achieved great success with his portraits, becoming the favourite painter for the French bourgeoisie. This meant that the Parisian bourgeoisie accepted impressionist painters and rejected the works of academic masters. The Lerolle family was a great protector of the new creators, especially Degas, as we can see in the two paintings that appear decorating the wall. However, Renoir is the one chosen to make the portrait of the two young women playing the piano, a composition similar to the Girls playing the piano painted in 1892. Yvonne dresses in white and strives to play a piece on the piano while her sister Christine contemplates the score in an accomplice way. Although the master does not renounce capturing natural light and colour, he is particularly interested in the modelling and drawing of the figures, wrapped in an atmosphere that does not manage to dilute the contours as Monet did. The expressiveness of the two models is another point of reference in the work, although in recent works Renoir does not load the inks on the personality of his models as in his early works - see Léonard Renoir or Victor Chocquet. In this way, the French master presents himself as a painter who gives joy and a certain romanticism to his compositions, achieving an important success before the public, as proof that this work was the first acquired by the French State.
- Giovanna Rocchi, Giovanna Vitali (2003). Renoir. I Classici dell'Arte. 8. Rizzoli. p. 142.