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Painting of the Week: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters (On the Terrace)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Two Sisters (On the Terrace)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters (On the Terrace), 1881, Art Institute of Chicago, detail

Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters (On the Terrace)

Today we present to you this beautiful painting by Renoir. It is known under two titles – the title Two Sisters (in French: Les Deux Sœurs) was given to the painting by the artist himself, and the title On the Terrace (Sur la terrasse) by its first owner Paul Durand-Ruel.

Here Renoir depicted the radiance of lovely young women on a warm and beautiful day. The older girl is wearing the female boater’s blue flannel. Renoir worked on the painting on the terrace of the Maison Fournaise, a restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, a western suburb of Paris. The artist spent much of his time there in the spring of 1881. Over the railings of the terrace you can see shrubbery and foliage with the River Seine behind it.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Two Sisters On the TerracePierre-Auguste Renoir Two Sisters (On the Terrace)Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters (On the Terrace), 1881, Art Institute of Chicago

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters (On the Terrace), 1881, Art Institute of Chicago

The painting was already under way by April 19, 1881, when, at lunch in Chatou with the American painter James McNeill Whistler, Renoir spoke of postponing a planned trip to London: “The weather is fine and I have my models; that’s my only excuse.”


In real life the girls were not actually sisters. Jeanne Darlot (1863—1914), a future actress who was 18 years old at the time, was posing as “the elder sister.” Unfortunately, it is unknown who posed as the “younger sister”.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Two Sisters On the Terrace Pierre-Auguste Renoir Two Sisters (On the Terrace) Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters (On the Terrace), 1881, Art Institute of Chicago, detail

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Two Sisters (On the Terrace), 1881, Art Institute of Chicago, detail

The painting was presented for the first time to the public at the 7th Impressionist exhibition in the spring of 1882. In 1883 it was known to be in the collection of Charles Ephrussi (the one portrayed by his great great-nephew Edmund de Waal in his book The Hare with Amber Eyes), an art collector and publisher, but in 1892 the painting was returned again to the collection of the Durand-Ruel family. Now it is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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