By the 1880s, Renoir (1841-1919), one of the most popular of the French Impressionists, became increasingly dissatisfied with his techniques. His lack of formal training as an artist was a constant source of concern to him, and he decided to concentrate on re-learning methods of drawing and painting. His letters record his search for a solution to his technical problems, and in one, to the dealer Vollard, he describes how he ‘had reached the end of Impressionism and reached the conclusion that he could neither paint nor draw.
This small sketch is typical of this period of experimentation. Using pen and ink, Renior meticulously drew the clusters of trees and bushes on the hillside. In the foreground, he has apparently sketched the reeds at the edge of a pool and indicated their reflection. The centre of the composition is carefully developed with brushstrokes of colour capturing the form of the landscape, overlaid with more refined strokes, blending greens, oranges-brown, yellow and grey-blue to model delicate details in the trees. There is a causal sense to his approach. The same light-blue wash used to accentuate the trees in the centre is lightly drawn across the sky. Although dated 1882 by his son Claude in his Souvenirs sur mon pere (1948), this work seems to be characteristic of the artist’s later period of crisis.