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Pierre-Auguste Renoir, At the Theatre (La Première Sortie)

Key facts
Full title At the Theatre (La Première Sortie)
Artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Artist dates 1841 - 1919
Date made 1876-7
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 65 × 49.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, Courtauld Fund, 1923
Inventory number NG3859
Location Room 44
Collection Main Collection
At the Theatre (La Première Sortie)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

We seem to be sitting in a box at the theatre with two young women, though we can’t be sure what is going on. We can’t see the stage and one of the women is looking away from us, the back of her bonnet hiding most of the other’s face. This sense of mystery is enhanced by the nearer woman’s pose, leaning forward slightly as though something is absorbing her attention. It may not be the stage performance that has captured her eye: in nineteenth-century Paris, attending the theatre was as much about social status as seeing the show. We get a strong sense of an atmosphere of people-watching in this picture. Among the audience in the background, a man in the lower tier and a woman above him stand out. They seem to have their eyes turned, either on us, the viewer, or on the young woman in the box.

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