“The Renoir Returns”, Renoir’s “On the Shore of the Seine” returns to the Baltimore Museum of Art more than 60 years after it’s theft.
(AP) Rumor has it Renoir painted the tiny piece on a linen napkin for his mistress. It was stolen from the museum in 1951 and resurfaced in 2012 when a woman tried to sell it, claiming she had bought it at a flea market.
At first it was known as the Renoir found at a West Virginia flea market — a woman took the painting to an auction house where they concluded that it was, indeed, On the Shore of the Seine — a Renoir that had been purchased in Paris in 1925 by American art collectors Herbert and Saidie May. In a press release, the auction house said it could sell for up to $100,000.
The flea market story intrigued Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira. He knew that Saidie May was a major donor to the Baltimore Museum of Art, but when he called the BMA, they told him they had no record of the painting. Shapira went to the museum to look through May’s papers anyway, just days before the auction opened.
“I found some documents showing that the museum had actually owned this painting and then the museum discovered documents on its own showing that the staff back in the 1950s had actually reported the painting stolen,” Shapira says.
On the Shore of the Seine is tiny, smaller than a sheet of paper. But the miniature landscape — of a sailboat in the distance — is bursting with color. The story goes that Renoir painted it around 1879 on a linen napkin — for his lover. With so much international interest, the painting is getting quite a homecoming.
“The painting became sort of a prodigal child. No matter how many children you have — and we have 90,000 in this institution — you feel for the one that is lost. So to be able to have it come home is just incredibly meaningful for us.” – Doreen Bolger, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art
The exhibition “The Renoir Returns” opens to the public on Sunday. The mystery of who stole the painting in 1951 remains unsolved.
“The Renoir Returns”