For New Yorkers of a certain vintage, the words “Renoir” and “Frick Collection” instantly trigger feelings of thwarted desire. The desire? To get a proper look at a large, appealing painting—Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s La Promenade (1875–76) with its two little girls in identical, chic, fur-trimmed blue costumes, shepherded along the pathway of a park by an equally chic young woman with long, golden brown hair. Why thwarted? For decades, viewing this picture was an exercise in frustration. It was installed near the stairs, tucked behind the organ pipes, and roped-off from the public. Come as close as you could, and you were at an odd angle. Try to see the painting head-on, and you were forced back to an unhelpful distance.

Now, La Promenade is readily visible in the Frick’s East Gallery, accompanied by an impeccable selection of Renoir’s large vertical canvases, as part of the...

 

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