The Umbrellas is an 1881 painting in the Impressionist style by the leading French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. This work is located in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, Ireland.
Analysis of Renoir’s The Umbrellas
The Umbrellas (c. 1886) is a gorgeous social painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir developed through a succession of dark-blue umbrellas in its upper register. It is considered to be one of Renoir’s most famous paintings.
This Impressionist artwork shows a public gathering on a Parisian street where mostly middle-class denizens appear to have come together for an event. They dressed appropriately for the colder season and virtually all of the adult figures visible to us are holding their hand’s identical blue umbrellas. A single figure in the middle looking up suggest to us that it has recently rained and that everyone is expecting a new downpour.
The most significant human presence is the elegant woman to the left, the only adult person to be looking at us. (We have also been noticed by the young girl on the right holding a hoop and stick.) She is dressed in a manner that identifies her as working-class. Indeed, it is her dress as well as her posture that was of chief interest to Renoir in his repainting of the scene in c. 1886.
Radiography tells us that, after painting her according to the fashions of 1881 and in a more strongly Impressionist’s vein, Renoir repainted her with the voguish dress a few years later. Her posture, complexion, and mood (and, we might argue, the entire repainting project) were influenced by Renoir’s exposure to Classicism during his visit to Italy.
The young lady was modeled by Suzanne Valadon, Renoir’s lover. A man appears to be inches behind her and may be about to cover her with his umbrella.
Looking at The Umbrellas, we have the impression of seeing a photostat of a real-life city scene. In the elegant and cheerful urbanity of that perception lies the main pleasure we obtain from it.