Gabrielle in a Red Blouse - by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This is the real Gabrielle, the handsome, big-shouldered woman who for many years served the Renoir household, as nursemaid to the children, as housekeeper, and finally as nurse and model to the aging and invalided painter. The simplicity of the portrait is strikingly effective: the absence of involved pose or composition, the restricted color scheme, the spontaneity of the painting itself - all echo the peasant directness of the subject. Renoir evokes here a sympathetic relationship between sitter and viewer, communicating a tender affection as he commemorates his devoted servant.

A comparison of this portrait with Gabrielle in an Open Blouse shows us how Renoir draws out different aspects of the same subject, like variations on a theme. In the picture opposite, the inspiration is discovered in its source, the portrait concentrating on the personality of the sitter. This was the intention. In the picture Gabrielle in an Open Blouse , Gabrielle is not represented as a strongly individualized personality; what Renoir painted there is maidenhood, sweet and artless, and not yet quite conscious of its womanliness. Although painted only three years before the present picture, Gabrielle in an Open Blouse is a picture of youth and Eden innocence, as bright and cool as a cluster of wild flowers. The head thrusts forward a little stiffly, the bearing of the figure and the expression of the face suggest a timorous girl who is hoping to be told that she sat well - even though at the last moment she shied at complete nudity. The beautiful pink torso emerges from the pearly grays and satiny whites that give the blouse the effect of a translucent cocoon, and the simple color scheme is one of the most refreshing Renoir ever invented.

In the portrait opposite, everything yields to the importance of the head, the warm colors and other details producing a feeling of relaxation and intimacy. Gabrielle in an Open Blouse charms through its elegance, poise, and the lovely substance of the pigment itself, through its adorable girlishness. Gabrielle in a Red Blouse is a winning picture of a sturdy, dependable worker and friend, whose patience and good humor are as rare as they are inspiring.