Girl with a Straw Hat - by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

In this face, smooth, plump, and solid as a tight-skinned apple, we have a new note. The meticulous drawing and firm modeling announce the artist's search at this time for a new discipline of draftsmanship in the tradition of the great Italians and in the art of Ingres, to which he turned with recently awakened eyes. Indeed, in the almost geometric restraint of the contours, with their firm, containing shapes, he rivals the greatest of his predecessors. The form is compact and solid. Yet it should be observed that it is not realized through the use of heavy shadow. Renoir is still the colorist, and it is because of subtle gradations of warm and cool tints that we get a feeling of roundness, of broadly bathing light and transparent shadows.

The reminiscence of Impressionism in the flesh tones finds fuller expression in the rest of the canvas. The basic color scheme exploits the opposition of complementaries - lustrous yellows and intense, saturated blues. The golden tones of the straw hat take on added glow as they contrast with the lapis-lazuli hues of the background. In an inversion of this color theme, the rich, warm browns of the hair enhance the coolness of the shadows on the dress as they in turn reflect the prevailing blue above. As brilliant as his orchestration of color is the painter's control over what could easily have become a confusing variety of brush textures: the subtle modulations of the skin, the silken smooth hair that cascades over the girl's shoulders to define the monumental pyramid of her figure, the fine lines - like engravings - in the treatment of the dress, the glittering straw of the hat, and the liquid sheen of the background, all contrive to focus our attention on the face of a lovely girl and make us aware of how a study like this can be at once precious and monumental.