Reunited: Renoir’s two La Loges

It was an exciting night at Sotheby’s Bond Street when, after feverish bidding, the hammer went down for £6.6 million on Renoir’s little-known smaller version of his famous masterpiece La Loge, one of the highlights of The Courtauld collection. Having tried unsuccessfully over the previous year to borrow the painting for The Courtauld Gallery’s current exhibition, Renoir at the Theatre: Looking at La Loge, this was a new chance for us. With the auction only three weeks before the opening of the exhibition the prospect seemed unlikely. However, thanks to the generosity of the painting’s new owner, Diane B. Wilsey, and some quick footwork, the painting made it into the exhibition with only a day to spare.

The small painting seems to be a second version of The Courtauld’s La Loge rather than an oil sketch and Renoir may have painted it following the critical success of the principal canvas at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. This is the first time they have been seen together since leaving Renoir’s studio that year and it is a unique opportunity to study them side-by-side. The inclusion of the little La Loge completes the exhibition which brings together all of Renoir’s major loge paintings together with other treatments of the subject by his Impressionist contemporaries such as Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas.

Dr Barnaby Wright, Schroder Foundation Curator of Paintings

The exhibition is generously supported by Apax Partners, Mr and Mrs Gilbert Lloyd (Nassau, Bahamas), The Doris Pacey Charitable Foundation and Toray Industries, Inc.