Pierre-Auguste Renoir did not make prints until he was almost fifty years old, after he was an established Impressionist painter renowned for his bathers, landscapes, and portraits of the Parisian leisure class. Between about 1890 and 1908 he made approximately sixty prints—roughly half of them etchings and half lithographs—most of which were commissioned for books or albums.
Pinning the Hat, one of Renoir’s largest, most elaborate prints, is among the lithographs he published in the 1890s, when color lithography finally began to shed its commercial associations and became a vehicle for original expression. His efforts in this medium were greatly indebted to the enterprising encouragement of two men: the Parisian dealer Ambroise Vollard, who commissioned prints by contemporary artists, and eventually became the most important print publisher of his time; and Auguste Clot, the great lithography printer who printed many of Vollard’s editions. Vollard believed that by using the finest paper and inks and employing the best master printers his editions would appeal to collectors as affordable alternatives to unique works.
To create this print, Renoir made a preliminary drawing on paper, which was transferred to the lithographic stone. He then reworked the image on the stone, using lithographic ink. After this state was printed, he colored an impression with pastel, which the printer then used as a guide for the preparation of the color print. The final print bears the kind of loose, feathery markings and vivid, atmospheric coloring that are hallmarks of Renoir’s paintings. The subject, which Renoir had previously treated in a pastel and an oil painting of 1893, as well as in three etchings of 1894, is the painter Berthe Morisot’s daughter, Julie, pinning flowers on her cousin Paulette’s broad-brimmed hat.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Starr Figura, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 35.