Comparitive Essay: Young Girls at the Piano & the Piano Lesson

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AN ANALYTICAL & COMPARATIVE STUDY OF

Young Girls at the Piano
PIERRE-AUGUSTE RENOIR

&

The Piano Lesson
HENRI MATISSE
STEPHANIE DAVIS

CONTENTS
1.
2.
4.
6.
8.
9.

Introduction
Young Girls at the Piano
The Piano Lesson
Comparison
Conclusion
Bibliography

AN INTRODUCTION…
In this research paper I will seek to comparatively analyze two distinct works of art – the 1892 painting entitled Jeunes Filles Au Piano (Young Girls At The Piano) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Henri Matisse’s The Piano Lesson, painted in 1916. In seeking out works as potential prospects to analyze, my decision process became a matter of immediate response – pieces that made me pause and linger while flipping through the pages were jotted down and included for consideration. Matisse always causes me to linger. Just the bare bones of his work, his expressive colour and style, draw me in. I chose his piece The Piano Lesson purely due to aesthetic preference, and sought out a suitable companion, which came in the form of Renoir’s Young Girls At The Piano. This stood out as they both share an almost identical theme, young children playing the piano, but are also similar in that to the eye they simulate candid, domestic scenes; another reason for my choosing them. To some the pieces may seem simple; boring even… but there is something about this type of candid subject matter that always intrigues me. It translates as very intimate, an autobiographic window into an artist’s immediate everyday surroundings, which, when they are revered, suddenly becomes interesting.

In this paper, my objective will be to understand, describe and interpret the two works, subsequently discuss them in a comparative manner as relates to their particular time of creation and note any important observations found.

YOUNG GIRLS AT THE PIANO
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Young Girls At The Piano is an 1892 painting by
Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. From
a purely visual, objective standpoint, it is a very
straightforward piece in terms of content. The
painting describes two young ladies in a lavish
living room. Seemingly in their adolescent years,
they pore over music sheets at a piano, absorbed
in what is evidently a mutual, fond pastime.
The close proximity of elements in the
piece and the tightly cropped composition lend a
very intimate feel to the work. A large middle
ground fills the canvas, occupied by the primary
subjects - the girls and the piano - accompanied
by a vase of bright flowers and drapery. It is
cleverly framed by the tiny glimpse of
background that is the adjacent room beyond the
top-left curtain, and the inkling of an immediate
Young Girls at the Piano, 1892
foreground that is a plush chair at the bottom right,
Pierre Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919)
piled up with papers.
Oil on canvas;
44 x 34 in. (111.8 x 86.4 cm.)
As in much of Renoir’s work, light is
Robert Lehmen Collection, 1975
utilized to cast a cheery illumination over the
piece, which has a subdued quality to the
pigments; they are rich, yet faded. The placement
of colour seems deliberate and carefully considered to create a harmonious quality there is a warm cast and the analogous pink, gold and deep purple are interjected with the complementary green drapes as well as the blue drape and ribbon. INTERPRETATION

The painting comes out of a subject matter that was ongoing for Renoir – while other major Impressionists of his time also dabbled in the “woman at the piano” subject matter, Renoir held an interest in it for over 23 years, beginning in 1874 and, still fascinated with the motif in 1897, concluding with a painted portrait of Yvonne and Christine Lerolle.1

At its core, the work is simply a manifestation of Renoir’s preference for depicting individuals in a leisurely setting and the subject of middle class entertainment. He had a fondness for painting women and girls and was known for his affectionate depictions of them. Young Girls...
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