With the proceeds from the sale of some pictures, Renoir had rented a neglected garden on via Cortot in Montmartre and set up a swing in it. His picture of this swing, painted in 1876, was shown at the third Impressionists exhibition along with the Moulin de la Galette.Both pictures were bought by the artist Gustave Caillebotte, who had always helped out his fellow painters materially and who, in his will of 1876, made a bequest of Impressionist paintings to the State on condition that they be exhibited "neither in a barn nor in a provincial museum. but at the Luxembourg and later the Louvre," a clause that encountered fierce opposition from academic circles. The painting is structured around the tache, or "blot,"a brushstroke separate from all the others and not blended into the ground. Initially used to represent the fragmentation of reflections on water, the tache was then used for the whole work. At the exhibition in 1877 a critic attacked this approach on the grounds that the effects of the light made it look as if the clothing were covered with grease stains. But the idea made an impression on a great writer, Emile Zola, who took the inspiration for some of the images in his novel Page d'amour from this painting, where the little girl watches with amusement as the sunlight moves slowly toward her, creating dancing round spots, and the older girl stands on the seat of the swing, holding onto the ropes with her arms braced and waiting for a push.
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