Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Arrival Of Spring

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
A Girl With A Watering Can
National Gallery Of Art, Washington

Oil On Canvas
39 3/8 Inches By 28 3/4 Inches

A painting deliberately created to court popularity (and sales), Renoir’s “A Girl With A Watering Can” has always been among the artist’s most-loved works. It provides a suitable way to greet the arrival of Spring.

The painting has long been a favorite of art-lovers. Indeed, “A Girl With A Watering Can” was such a popular draw at The National Gallery during the 1940s and 1950s that, during The Cold War, the Russian Embassy in Washington would often instruct its undercover agents operating in the U.S. to meet their Soviet handlers before this painting. (The painting had been on long-term loan to The National Gallery years before it was actually gifted to the institution in 1963 one year after the death of its owner, Chester Dale.)

Alger Hiss knew this painting intimately, as has been recounted many times in histories of Soviet espionage in the U.S. during The Cold War.

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