La loge (The Theater Box)
This masterpiece, painted when Renoir was thirty-three and shown in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874, can be regarded simply as a glimpse of contemporary life but is in a sense portraiture also. Renoir's brother Edmond posed for the man, the girl was a well-known Montmartre model nicknamed `Nini gueule en raie'.
Renoir had already been working in close accord with Monet at La Grenouillère but in this instance made no special effort at Impressionist innovation, such as might convey the impression of a theatre by the treatment of light. Nor did he have any scruple about using black, on which Impressionist theory frowned, deriving its utmost density from Edmond's evening dress and opera-glasses and Nini's righly stripped attire. All his appreciation of feminine charm of feature appears in the eyes, the mobile mouth and delicate skin of his female model contrasted with the countenance of Edmond in shadow. In spite of the beauty and luxurious character of the painting it found no buyer and Renoir by his own account was only too glad to dispose of it to the dealer known as le père Martin for 425 francs. He was adamant in not taking less as this was the exact amount needed to pay rent due and he had no other resource. But Nini of La Loge was the first of the long series of portraits that Renoir was able to invest with an inimitable charm.
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