Renoir painted three, almost life size, paintings of dance scenes early in 1883, for the art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. These paintings mark a change from the artists Impressionist leanings towards the more classical themes of David and Ingres. The third of these, which I have featured in my February “Painting of the Month” is Dance in the City.
Dance in the City, also held in the Musée D’Orsay, is probably the most classical in style and context. Note the sharply defined edges, so different from the blurred edges of the Impressionists. It also features the colour black as an experiment of Renoir’s in this period, which he concluded with Umbrellas in the National Gallery.
It is widely acknowledged that the models were, again, Phillip Lhôte and Suzanne Valadon, the post-impressionist painter. This painting is far more restrained than the Dance at Bougival and Dance in the Country, but nevertheless Renoir has captured the sensuality and movement of the moment. The demure expression of Valadon gives a charge to the closeness of the dance. Look also for the tails of Lhôte’s coat giving that feeling of swirling exuberance.
Renoir’s move away from Impressionism might be best expressed by the deliberate treatment of the folds on the dress. These three paintings, I believe, reveal in Renoir his love of women and the sensuality of Dance. I hope one day to see them all together.