Girl with a Mandolin - by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

In this collection of plates we have traced Renoir's work as a painter. Here in a picture painted in the last year of his life, we see again that his pictorial resources were literally endless, and, at seventy-eight, he was still developing. The human presence of the model continued to be of central importance in his pictures, and here the womanliness is as pervasive as ever. And yet, as was pointed out in connection with the plate on page UI Renoir's late work reflects something of the temper of the new painting of the day.

We are a long way from the canvases in which Renoir appeared as "the gentle, loving chronicler" of everyday incidents; we have left behind those paeans to glowing, sculpturesque bodies; those sensitive portrait characterizations. Now the human being is the occasion of the painting and not its ultimate subject. The canvases are primarily an ordering of ruddy colors, pigment textures, swelling lines, and patterns. All of these components have been broadened out; the colors and shapes begin to be separated from their contexts. Further development in this direction-difficult as it is to imagine that Renoir could become so "dehumanized" - would result in a coloristic abstract art. As it is, this canvas in some ways brings to mind Matisse's painting of the early 1920s, although this picture is more directly sensuous.

Renoir's genius is constantly amazing: the number of his paintings runs into the thousands, and great as he was at any period of his long career, he went from one climactic stage to another, and always in the spirit of the time.