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Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Portrait of Mademoiselle Legrand, 1875

About the Artwork

Renoir's charming portrait of eight-year-old Adelphine Legrand was painted early in his career, when he depended on portrait commissions to support himself and to build his reputation. With clasped hands and a hesitant expression, the young girl stands before the painter, on her best behavior but looking beyond him for reassurance and encouragement from someone else. Set in a sparsely decorated room, Adelphine's portrait is uncluttered with details, yet is dominated by the strong rich colors and wet brushstrokes of her black pinafore, the blue scarf knotted at her neck, and the green curtain behind her. A sense of spontaneity is captured by her gold locket, which hangs unevenly from her neck, as if it has just been pulled from under her pinafore. Adelphine's parents were members of the petite bourgeoisie: her father was a shop-clerk and her mother a maker of straw hats. Little is known about the circumstances of the commission or the relationship between Renoir and the Legrand family, though it seems the girl's parents knew the artists Frédéric Bazille and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. Renoir attended Adelphine's wedding in 1893, which suggests that he remained a close family friend. Jennifer A. Thompson, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 80

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