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The Grands Boulevards

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French, 1841 - 1919

Made in France, Europe


Oil on canvas

20 1/2 × 25 inches (52.1 × 63.5 cm) Framed: 29 × 33 1/8 × 4 3/8 inches (73.7 × 84.1 × 11.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 252, European Art 1850-1900, second floor (Toll Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986

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Perhaps Renoir's most famous view of Paris is this archetypical image of its newest and most fashionable district in the 1870s. The Grands Boulevards is full of the pigment daubs and bright colors that are characteristic of Impressionism. The modern life in the city is transmitted through visible strokes of paint, which operate as immediate sensory cues that allow the viewer to perceive this world as though it is passing by. This is the magic of Renoir's Paris. The world of the painting is truly historical--the modern city emerging--even though his translation of this place is a subjective and fleeting impression.


Probably with Durand-Ruel, Paris [1]; Armand-François-Paul des Frisches, comte Doria (1824-1896), Paris; sale, Doria collection, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 4-5, 1899, no. 208; purchased by Durand-Ruel, Paris [2]. Collection Josse and Gaston Bernheim-Jeune, Paris [3]. Oscar Schmitz (1861-1933), Dresden, 1900-1933 (on loan to the Kunsthaus, Zürich, 1931-?) [4]; his estate, 1933-1936; with Wildenstein & Co., Paris, 1936-1937 [5]; sold to Henry P. McIlhenny, Philadelphia, by February 1937 [6]; bequest to PMA, 1986. 1. Count Armand Doria purchased three paintings by Renoir from Durand-Ruel, Renoir's dealer, in July 1876, possibly including this one (he owned ten by the time of his death). See Anne Distel, Les collectionneurs des impressionistes, Paris, 1989, p. 171. 2. Per annotation in PMA copy of sale catalogue. 3. See Guy-Patrice Dauberville and Michel Dauberville, Renoir: catalogue raisonné des tableaux, pastels, dessins et aquarelles, vol. 1, 1858-1881 (Paris, 2007), no. 186. 4. "La Collection Oscar Schmitz," Paris, Wildenstein & Co., 1936, no. 51, and H. Biedermann, "Die Sammlungen Adolf Rothermundt und Oscar Schmitz in Dresden," in Die Moderne und ihre Sammler, Berlin, 2001, p. 213. Schmitz probably purchased the painting from Paul Durand-Ruel, his friend and art advisor. Schmitz loaned most of his collection, including the French works, to the Kunsthaus Zürich when he lived temporarily in Switzerland beginning in 1931 (Biedermann, p. 221). 5. See catalogue "La Collection Oscar Schmitz," Paris, Wildenstein & Co., 1936, no. 51. Georges Wildenstein purchased 62 of the French works from the Schmitz collection in 1936 (see Biedermann, p. 233, n. 46; and Daniel Wildenstein and Yves Stavridès, Marchands d'art, Paris, 1999, p. 87). 6. McIlhenny mentions the recent acquisition of the painting in a letter to Paul Rosenberg dated February 2, 1937 (curatorial file).

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