It’s being called the single largest archive of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s personal property. A forthcoming auction of hundreds of personal letters, photos and other memorabilia offers a candid look inside the French master painter’s life.
The Renoir Estate Collection is set to be sold in New York on 19 September. Heritage Auctions has estimated its value at $3m (£1.9m).
The sale includes 19 original sculptural plaster models created during Renoir’s twilight years between 1913 and 1918.
A consummate artist who painted every day of his life, Renoir died in 1919. His personal archive remained with his heirs until 2005, when his grandson Paul offered it for sale.
“It is a gold mine,” said Virginie Journiac, an art historian and former curator of the Renoir Museum in Cagnes-sur-Mer, in the South of France. “These personal Renoir pieces will be seen for the last time as a unique collection unless a single buyer is able to purchase all the lots.”
Other objects in the sale include Renoir’s marriage licence and a notebook full of critics’ reviews. There are letters from his contemporaries Claude Monet and Edouard Manet; his Legion of Honour medals; hundreds of glass-plate negatives; and documents relating to the construction of Les Collettes, his estate at Cagnes-sur-Mer.
Several museums, reached for comment, declined to say whether they would bid.
Celebrated for his sensual nudes and charming landscapes, Renoir’s sculptures are less known. The auction features the only two sculptures entirely executed by his hands – a medallion and Coco, a bust of his youngest son, Claude.
The Woodcocks is the only painting in the sale. The small picture is of great historic significance because it is believed to be Renoir’s last work, said Ms Journiac, whose just-published book The Late Renoir, The Riviera Years is largely based on the material in the collection.
“He painted this still life with two dead birds some hours before he died, which is quite symbolic,” she said.