Young Spanish Woman with a Guitar, 1898
In the 1890s, Renoir produced a series of images of young women playing the guitar. The National Gallery’s version is the only one in which the sitter wears a Spanish costume (Spain being the nation with which the guitar was associated in late 19th-century France). Renoir had dressed his models in “exotic” costume at least since 1870, inspired by the marvelous textures, patterns, and colors. In this picture, Renoir is less interested in conveying the sitter’s character than in her bolero jacket, the lovely shape of the instrument, and the strong color chord of red and black in her headgear.
Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) was a French painter, printmaker, and sculptor. He was one of the founders of impressionism from the late 1860s, producing some of the movement’s most famous images. In the later 1870s and 1880s, he increasingly exhibited in the official Salon and referred in his work to old masters. Later, he focused increasingly on the female nude, and his paintings became more abstract, attracting the attention of the early 20th-century avant-garde. Owing to many of these difficult works, and the volume of minor works he continued to produce until his final days, his critical reputation has suffered.