Guernsey Press

Renoir painting of Med could be our east coast

A Renoir painting which has long been thought to depict a bay in the Mediterranean may actually be a view of Guernsey’s east coast, researchers have found.

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Head of heritage services Helen Glencross next to the ‘Bay of Salerno’ painting. (Picture by Peter Frankland 32550939)

Baie de Salerne – or Bay of Salerno – is one of several oil-on-canvas works by the impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir which have been loaned from various galleries, museums and private collectors around the world in order to stage an exhibition at Candie, which opens to the public this week.

Art for Guernsey has been working on the exhibition for four years, in collaboration with Guernsey Museums and the Musee des Impressionnismes Giverny.

According to its title, the painting is of a bay to the south of Naples in Italy. It has been borrowed from the Musee d’art Moderne Andre Malraux in Le Havre, Normandy – known as MuMa.

But anybody visiting the exhibition who knows the view from the area of the Doyle Monument at Jerbourg will certainly notice a familiarity in the landscape depicted.

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‘This wasn’t supposed to be one of the most exciting artworks on show but for me, it is now,’ said AFG founder David Ummels.

‘The teams from AFG, Guernsey Museums and Giverny have done quite a bit of research and we have come to the conclusion that this is not an 1881 Bay of Salerno painting. We believe this is the bay of St Peter Port in 1883.’

Efforts are ongoing to ‘requalify’ the work, which will require MuMa’s involvement.

However, the research of photographic and art history sources has been sufficiently thorough that the exhibition will feature a panel explaining the theory.

Renoir - Baie de Salerne. This image was thought to have been painted in Italy during Renoir's trip to the Bay of Salerno in 1881 but it is now believed that the painting depicts a scene from near Fermain showing Clarence Battery, Castle Cornet and the north of Guernsey. (32554295)

One piece of evidence is an interview in which Renoir misremembered his visit to Guernsey as having been in 1881 – when he was actually touring the Mediterranean – rather than 1883, which could explain any original misclassification of the work.

Mr Ummels said it had become clear – largely through the contribution of Giverny director Cyrille Sciama – that Renoir’s brief visit to Guernsey had ignited a new creative direction, which took him from relative obscurity to international fame within three years.

There are now 17 paintings through which Renoir is believed to have captured the island’s scenery – 10 of which are in the forthcoming exhibition – with another 30 or 40 now thought to have been heavily influenced by the landscape here and the movement of the light at Moulin Huet in particular.

‘We feel proud that we have been able to contribute to art history and to enhance the importance of Guernsey,’ Mr Ummels said.