Pierre Auguste Renoir's 1880 canvas Sleeping Girl, often referred to as Girl with a Cat, is a striking Impressionist masterwork finished a short time before the artist gave up painting in the vivid manner he had honed and moved into a period of rigid classicism. Capturing a starkly luminous scene during a period of slumber, Renoir juxtaposes the sleeping girl with bright shades and his reproduction of the hues of daylight.
The figurative Impressionist style that Renoir would soon turn his back on was honed through a rigorous study of nudes as primary subjects. It was, paradoxically, the tones of the skin that would trigger his abandonment of the style upon finding that it was not suitable in portraying the colors he saw on his travels to Algeria.
Sleeping Girl is, however, a painting characteristic of his triumphs of light and shade, suggesting the intimate atmospheres of a scene through deft and freely dabbed brushes of color and causing his subjects and their backdrops to intermingle in a game of depth and surface. Initially influenced by the colorism of Eugène Delacroix, he also fused the Realism of Gustave Courbet and Edgar Degas' depiction of movement.
The Impressionist style was forged throughout the late 1860s alongside his friend and fellow painter Claude Monet - the painted side by side outdoors, capturing their impressions and reproductions of the light en plein air. It was Monet who articulated the revolutionary concept that the correct way to paint the color of shadows was to omit the instinctive blacks and browns in favor of a reflection of the surrounding colors of objects. Becoming known as 'diffuse reflection', Renoir would refine this technique and give life to the style in paintings such as Sleeping Girl, manifesting the meeting point of light, object, and movement.
Renoir used a mix of warm and cool colors in Sleeping Girl. The girl sleeping on the chair wears a violet skirt and striped socks, along with black slippers. Her hat is the same color of her skirt and has decorative pink flowers on it. Her blouse is white, and one of the straps has fallen from her shoulder. The way Renoir portrayed her body resting on the bright red cushioned chair and her illuminated hand leaning next to the blue-gray cat, as well as her relaxed expression, shows how she is in a deep sleep.
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