Painted in 1917, ‘Paysage à l'arbre’ exemplifies the fluidity of Renoir’s later work which often borders on the abstract. Informed by the rich colours of the Mediterranean, the broad palette of this small canvas presents a pictorial language particular to that of his time in Cagnes-sur-Mer. ‘Paysage à l'arbre’ becomes an archetype of Renoir’s ability – through the swift vibrant brushstrokes he developed in the early 1900s – to capture the transient nature of his surroundings.
Depicted on an intimate scale, ‘Paysage a l’arbre’ is filled with as much drama, movement and vitality as Renoir’s larger paintings. The enigmatic brushwork varies from thick daubes of impasto to gentle washes of colour, while the vibrant tones create a depth, richness and texture to the landscape.
During this period Renoir split his time between Essoyes in Champagne and his house, Les Colletes, in Cagnes - the likely location of the present painting. In 1916, the year before creating ‘Paysage à l'arbre’, Renoir declared to his friend Ambroise Vollard that “I think this time I’ve got the secret of painting!... What a pity that every bit of progress one makes is only a step towards the grave! If I could only live long enough to do a masterpiece”.
Other of Renoir’s paintings from 1917 are in major institutions such as ‘Paysage’ (Barnes Foundation, Philadephia), ‘Woman in a Hat with Flowers’ (Artizon Museum, Tokyo) and ‘Odalisque Dormant’ (Museé d’Orsay, Paris).