If it weren’t for all the Hollywood-style drama surrounding it, the little Renoir landscape would probably never be the centerpiece of a big museum show. It’s small and not particularly important (although it still is, of course, a Renoir). But we’ll be one of the people lining up to see it later this month when it goes on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the same place it was stolen from more than 60 years ago.
We’ve covered the drama of the so-called “flea market” Renoir from those heady days when we thought it actually was a lucky $7 find, to the increasing questions about its origins: No nearby flea market ever had a record of its sale, and its alleged purchaser was the daughter of a MICA grad who earned a living by copying masterpieces, including those by Renoir. Last month, a judge awarded ownership of the Renoir to the BMA, where it had originally been a donation by collector Saidie May. (There’s some drama there, too – but we won’t get into it here.)
Starting on March 30, the unassuming little painting will be put on display for the first time in more than 60 years a special exhibition running through July. The show will highlight other works from May’s collection, including works by Seurat, Degas, Mondrian, Miro, Klee — and May herself, who the Baltimore Sun describes as “an enthusiastic amateur painter.” The little Renoir, however, will clearly be the star of the show.