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Portrait of Jeanne Samary

Painting, 1877, 56×47 cm
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Description of the artwork «Portrait of Jeanne Samary»

Jeanne Samary was a Parisian celebrity, a promising young actress at the Comédie-Française theater. The Parisian beau monde admired her and sought to get to all the premieres with Jeanne appearing on the stage. She was a real celebrity of her time, and her portrait was something like a central photo shoot in a glossy zine. Which photographer would refuse to shoot, for example, Jennifer Lawrence or Scarlett Johansson for Maxim or GQ?

Auguste Renoir also did not refuse the offer of the girl’s parents to paint a portrait of Jeanne Samary. She was really charming with her ringing laugh and shiny skin. To understand his new model and create not just an external portrait, but a portrait of her inner world, the artist even heroically attended the performances of Comédie-Française. After many years, Renoir recalled that he apparently really wanted to see her, while the whole place bore the stamp of boredom for him.

Fortunately, she often played in Musset’s plays. No one ever confirmed the uncertain guesses about the romantic relationship between Auguste and Jeanne, but, according to the memories of his friends, the 20-year-old actress was clearly fascinated with Renoir. He, most likely, was carried away by her feminine, touching, cheerful image, full of strength and joy. It was extremely important for Renoir to paint Jeanne in the space where she lived. Every day he resorted to her home and immediately grabbed the brush, sometimes even forgetting to say hello.

This new fascination gave the artist confidence of his vocation and gave hope for the future. It was a time when the Impressionists were mercilessly criticized, a time when they lost the trust of traders and often starved when two failed exhibitions cracked their faith in their own strength. For example, it was the time, when one of the traders came to Renoir and proposed to forge pictures by Theodore Rousseau.

To all the virtues and charms of Jeanne we should add her sharp intuition, which made her unerringly choose the man who can glorify her. She would have been forgotten long ago, but for Renoir. Now no one would care that Jeanne Samary later married a rich man Paul Lagarde. He loved the young actress so much that he decided to marry against the will of his parents. Jeanne had three daughters, and the actress herself became a wonderful mother and even wrote a children's book.

And while Jeanne was still a star and the whole Paris was talking about her, critics carried her portrait to the dust. They talked about the flashy bright clothes in the paintings by Renoir, about the defiantly saturated pink background. Sometimes it may seem that women never wore bright clothes before Renoir. He not only allowed women to flaunt in emerald green dresses in his paintings, but he changed the viewer’s attitude to the perception of color, joy and celebration forever.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Impressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1877

Size: 56×47 cm

Artwork in selections: 138 selections

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