Madame Renoir: Who Was the Wife of the Great Artist?

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Madame Renoir: Who Was the Wife of the Great Artist?
A pretty woman is making kissy faces with a little terrier in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. This is Aline Charigot, the woman the Impressionist painter shared his life with. Charigot modeled for Renoir over the period from 1880 to 1915. Aline Charigot worked as a dressmaker in Montmartre before becoming Renoir’s lover and the mother of his three children. Pierre and Jean Renoir both went on to have distinguished careers in film, and the third, Claude, became a ceramic artist. Later in life, Aline cared for Renoir as he became increasingly disabled, but she left Renoir a widower for his last four years. Renoir is well known, but who was his wife? Aline Victorine Charigot was born in the spring of 1859. Her family cultivated grapes in the little town of Essoyes, close to the wine regions of Burgundy and Champagne. Aline was raised by aunts and uncles from both sides of her family, since her parents ostensibly abandoned her. Her father ran away to North America when Aline was a baby, and in turn, her deserted mother moved to Montmartre where she supported herself as a seamstress. Aline was taught by the Sisters of Providence in Essoyes at age 13 but she is known to have received very little formal education. Young Woman reading an illustrated Journal, 1880. Auguste Renoir At the age of 15, Aline reunited with her mother in Montmartre. Like Madame Charigot, she was adept at dressmaking, and sewed for a tailor whose workrooms were at the foot of Montmartre, making copies of haute couture dresses for the shops in the rue de la Paix. She earned a good living and shared her wages with her mother. Aline’s mother made a close friend called Camille, another woman from Burgundy, who owned a crèmerie on Rue Saint-Georges. The crèmerie sold the usual cream, milk, and butter, but Madame Camille also had a side room where customers could enjoy a plat du jour. Aline and her mother were regulars. Aline was a pretty girl, comfortably plump, with strawberry blonde hair, a retroussé nose and a healthy appetite. Although Aline was known to be a hard worker and very talented, Madame Camille thought she’d be better off finding a good man to marry. Camille was a widow with two daughters of her own to marry off. Portrait of Madame Renoir, 1885 By Pierre Auguste Renoir
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Lead photo credit : Renoir 1880 Madame Renoir with a Dog By Auguste Renoir from Wikimedia Commons

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.