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22 February 2021
Gwendoline Davies (1882-1951) and her sister Margaret (known as Daisy) Davies (1884-1963) were art collectors in a (usually) very male-dominated world. Their money came from their grandfather, who built seven railway lines in Wales and was an important figure in the coal industry. The sisters inherited the equivalent today of fifty million pounds each and spent it in a wonderful way – they were amateur art historians and collected paintings. They bought Renoir's La Parisienne (1874) in 1913 and it is now part of the collection they gave to the National Museum of Wales in 1952. It shows Madame Henriette Henriot but 'by giving the painting the title La Parisienne, Renoir indicated that it represents a type, rather than a particular individual. A reviewer of the 1874 exhibition in which it was first shown wrote "The toe of her ankle boot is almost invisible, and peeps out like a little black mouse. Her hat is tilted over one ear and is daringly coquettish...The smile is false, and the face is a strange mixture of the old and the childish. But there is still something naive about her. One gets the impression that this little lady is trying hard to look chaste. The dress, which is extremely well painted, is a heavenly blue."'
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