This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue critique of Pierre-Auguste Renoir being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute established from the archives of François Daulte, Durand-Ruel, Venturi, Vollard and Wildenstein.
Glowing with the warm colours of the Mediterranean coast, Paysage du Midi belongs to a series of extemporaneous, radical landscapes which Pierre-Auguste Renoir executed at the glorious end of his career. Captured with loose and unfettered brushstrokes, the picture portrays an idyllic scene, as two women rest by a river in the middle of wild and luxuriant vegetation. Renoir's bold juxtapositions of colours – paring red and blue on the trunk of the tree, for example – successfully capture the vibrant visual richness of Southern France’s countryside, testifying to the painter’s eye ability to transpose on the canvas the ever-changing appearance of nature through light and swift brushstrokes.
Paysage du Midi was executed by Renoir between 1917 and 1919. At the time, the artist was living at Collettes, in Southern France, in the ample family house which he had built in the middle of an olive garden. Just like Claude Monet at Giverny, Renoir transformed the wild surroundings of his home into an outdoor studio, where he could persistently and closely study nature, capturing its kaleidoscopic colours and light effects in his work. This intimate, propitious setting encouraged Renoir to venture deeper into his art: landscape provided the artist with the ground on which he could experiment. With pictures such as Paysage du Midi, Renoir surpassed Impressionism, appearing to verge on abstraction: although immediately recalling a Mediterranean landscapes, in its details the picture dissolves into entrancing polychromatic passages of pure painting. These last, experimental works by Renoir would prove influential for future generations of painters. Henri Matisse, who visited the artist in 1918 – around the time Paysage du Midi was being painted - wrote back to his wife: ‘I have just come back from Renoir’s house where I have seen some marvellous paintings’ (H. Matisse, quoted in Renoir au XX siècle, exh. cat., Paris, 2009, p. 381).