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Head of a Child

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)

French, Impressionist
ca. 1876 - 1878
34.29 cm x 30.48 cm (13 1/2 in. x 12 in.)
pastel on paper (now backed with canvas)

Not on view


This pastel sketch of a vivacious and charming child with large coal-black eyes is very possibly a study of one of the children of Madame Georges Charpentier, either Georgette Berthe (1872–1945) or Paul Émile Charles (1875–1895). All three are seen in Renoir’s famous 1878 painting of the family, now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Renoir first met the Charpentiers in 1876 and made several portraits of members of the family during the succeeding years. The related 1876 portrait of Georgette Charpentier Seated, now in the Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, shows the girl wearing a medal suspended from a bead necklace that is similar to the sketchy indication of a necklace in the Dumbarton Oaks study.

Pierre Auguste Renoir first studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and exhibited at the Salon in 1864. However, his friendship with the artist Monet inspired him, ten years later, to take part in the first Impressionist exhibition. Although he also exhibited in the third Impressionist exhibition, where he included the 1876 oil Georgette Charpentier Seated, he chose not to exhibit in the fourth in 1879. Instead he exhibited the 1878 oil Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children that year at the Salon.

The paper on which the drawing is executed has been put down on canvas, and a narrow strip across the bottom has been added, probably by Renoir himself, to extend the composition. At the lower right of the original sheet, microscopic examination shows traces of Renoir’s signature that was painted over when the strip was added.

J. Carder

Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 362f, ill.

Exhibition History
"Portraits of Children," Museum of Modern Art Gallery, Washington, DC, 2/22-3/20/1937, checklist no. 25.

"Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1841-1919," Los Angeles County Museum, CA, 7/14-8/21/1955 and San Francisco Museum of Art, CA, 9/1-10/2/1955, cat. p. 64, no. 93.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Galeries Druet, Paris (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 5/19/1924.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 5/19/1924-11/29/1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.

Child | Necklaces | Pierre Auguste Renoir | Three Quarter Frontal