Umbrellas, c. 1883;
Oil on canvas, 180 x 115 cm; National Gallery, London
This picture, as well as being a delight in itself, illustrates a transitional aspect of Renoir's art. It shows a new attention to design as a well-defined scheme of arrangement, the umbrellas forming a linear pattern of a far from Impressionist kind, the linear element also being stressed in the young modiste's bandbox, the little girl's hoop and the umbrella handles. In this care for definite form, apparent also in the figures at the left, one can see a discontent with Impressionism and a search for a firmer basis of style that would date the work to about 1883-4, after his journeyings abroad and the revision he brought into his ideas. It is unlikely that it preceded the Muslim Festival of 1881 and more probably represents a subsequent reaction.
The Cézanne-like treatment of the tree at the back also suggests it was painted after Renoir stayed with him at L'Estaque in 1882. The children and the lady with them are more indicative of the style of the 'seventies than the rest of the picture which may well have passed through stages of repainting over a period. The charm of the whole is nevertheless able to overcome the feeling of slight discrepancy that may result from close examination.
Durand-Ruel bought the picture from Renoir in 1892 and sold it to Sir Hugh Lane, in whose bequest it came to the Tate Gallery in 1917. It was transferred to the National Gallery in 1935.