Two Sisters (On the Terrace) was painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1881 pays witness to the artist at the pinnacle of his formal and commercial success, and sits at the high water-mark of the Impressionist era. Like the artist's The Luncheon of the Boating Party, the painting was captured on the balcony of the Maison Fournaise restaurant in Chatou near Paris, an establishment that welcomed a range of social classes, all of which could enjoy a day of boating relatively free from the usual constraints of social hierarchy. However, in this canvas the season is Spring, and the tones and hues of the budding plants ignite the serene blue of the river and set off the effervescent colors of the two sisters.
In contrast to the pastel hues of the foliage, the reproduction of the young women's figures is vivid in the forefront of the image, dominating the tender yet complicated scene. Indeed, the finest work of the Impressionists was done through an exceptional and understated understanding of light and color. In Renoir's Two Sisters (On the Terrace) the light dances across the water and weaves between the petals of the flowers on the terrace. The bottom left corner depicts a bowl of colorful fruit, in which the little sister clings to while looking to the viewer. The flowers on her hat and the fruit in the basket form a unity, as they portray many of the same colors – as does the flowers on the oldest sister’s chest.
Shown to the public in the seventh Impressionist exhibition in 1882 alongside Girl with a Fan, Sleeping Girl aka Girl with a Cat and At the Concert aka Box at the Opera and The Luncheon of the Boating Party, the series of outstanding paintings coincided with a drastic change in the artist's style. Following a series of trips around the world, Renoir's tastes shifted, and the artist began painting in a more rigid and classical style. First and foremost, however, Renoir's canvases were always intended to be steps in a lofty progression towards perfection in form and composition. His move away from Impressionism the year he painted Two Sisters (On the Terrace) was for many an inadvisable and unfortunate move, yet for Renoir, it was merely a part of the process of experimentation and exchange that would exemplify the life of one of the great French painters.
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