MADRID (Reuters Life!) - More than a century after he visited Madrid's Prado museum seeking inspiration, Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir's work is being shown at the prestigious gallery.
"A Passion for Renoir," which opens on Tuesday, features 31 mainly small paintings by the French master from the last quarter of the 19th century, generally deemed to have been his finest years.
His "Self-Portrait," painted in 1875, and "Madame Monet with Her Son," which was done a year earlier, inspired major 20th-century painters such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse and are included in the show that will run until February.
"The Prado is where Renoir's refined classicism can best be understood, his interest in form and how its twinning with the great European colorist tradition ended up ostracizing him from the Impressionist movement," said museum director Miguel Zugaza.
Paintings in the new exhibition have been borrowed from the private collection of U.S. collector Robert Sterling Clark (1877-1956). They were acquired over four decades and are now owned by the Clark Art Institute in Williamson, Massachusetts.
Along with his contemporaries Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Paul Cezanne, Renoir founded the Impressionist movement which transformed the treatment of light and form in European painting.
His style evolved throughout his career but the exhibition contrasts works painted before and after a decisive trip to Italy in 1881.
"On several occasions in his life he expressed his fascination with museum paintings, with great Venetian painting, with Flemish and even Spanish painting, including Velazquez, whose work he saw during a visit to Madrid in 1892," said Javier Baron, one of the exhibition's curators.
Renoir was noted for his vibrant light and saturated color, as well as pioneering a recovery in form and volume, which can be seen in other works in the show including "The Wash-House at Bas-Meudon," "Bather," "Onions," and "The Theater Box."
In return for the loan of the Renoir paintings, the Prado will lend the Clark Art Institute works by Titian, Rubens and Velazquez for an upcoming exhibition on the importance of nude painting in the development of western painting.
Writing by Martin Roberts; Editing by Patricia Reaney