Diana, 1867
oil on canvas
Overall: 199.5 x 129.5 cm (78 9/16 x 51 in.) framed: 222.6 x 159.1 cm (87 5/8 x 62 5/8 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
On View

From the Tour: Mary Cassatt, Auguste Renoir

Renoir wrote that he had produced this painting as a study of a nude, the sort of exercise that was a mainstay of the academic tradition. In the pose are signs of a "life class." Notice, for example, that the woman's foot rests on an elevated perch and that the strain of her raised arms is relieved by a prop. Such devices were necessary for a model to maintain her pose. This model, though, is Lise Tréhot, the artist's mistress, and in the end, as Renoir admitted, "the picture was considered pretty improper." He said he added the bow, the dead animal, and the deerskin to transform Lise into Diana, ancient goddess of the hunt, whose voluptuous nudity would be more acceptable to a Salon jury than that of a real woman. Probably this is a fiction. But, in any case, the painting was rejected when Renoir submitted it to the Salon in 1867. It was undisguised by its mythological theme.

The picture's style shows the influence of realist painter Gustave Courbet in the particular attention given to the blood coming from the animal's mouth and the mossy surfaces of the rocks. This is one of the few times Renoir used a palette knife to apply his pigments -- a favorite technique of Courbet. In the greens of the animal skin and the bright red accent, however, we see Renoir's own preference for the bright, luminous colors that would distinguish his impressionist pictures only a few years later.