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Renoir’s 'Umbrellas' Unfurled Again

Ashok Roy, Rachel Billinge and Christopher Riopelle
Technical Bulletin Volume 33, 2012


Renior’s Umbrellas was last studied intensively in 1990 for the National Gallery’s 'Art in the Making' exhibition on Impressionism. It had been known then that the picture involved two quite separate stages of development first around 1881 and then from about 1885. The evolution of this complex composition had been explored on the basis of cross-sections and the X-ray image and it was possible to identify quite unambiguously the two separate phases of painting on the basis of material evidence. Crucially it was discovered that Renoir had changed his palette between the two stages (from cobalt blue to French ultramarine, and from zinc yellow to Naples yellow). These materials are widespread in the painting and provide indicators of the date of specific parts of the composition, and layers beneath the surface. In preparation for loan to a temporary exhibition at the Frick Collection (New York) in 2012, a new infrared reflectogram was made of the whole picture, and the X-ray image was improved by digital processing. With this new information provided by imaging, it has become possible to refine our interpretation of the separate phases of Renoir’s elaborate recasting of the picture, both in its style and its composition.


Renoir, Paris, The Umbrellas, Les Parapluies, X-radiograph, infrared reflectogram, cross sections, cobalt blue, French ultramarine, zinc yellow, Naples yellow

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To cite this article we suggest using

Roy, A., Billinge, R., Riopelle, C. 'Renoir’s "Umbrellas" Unfurled Again'. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 33, pp 73–81.

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