Page last updated at 06:26 GMT, Friday, 5 August 2005 07:26 UK

La Parisienne vies for art prize

'La Parisienne'
Renoir's 'La Parisienne' shocked the public when it was painted in 1874

An artwork at the National Museum of Wales is in the running in a poll to find the greatest painting in Britain.

La Parisienne was donated to the gallery by mid Wales collectors Gwendolyn and Margaret Davies.

When the figure was painted by Pierre August Renoir in 1874, it was regarded as risqué and controversial.

The painting is one of five nominated by the National Museum and Gallery of Wales in an online search for the greatest painting in the country.

Members of the public are invited to vote for their favourite by visiting the Greatest Painting in Britain poll on the website of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Museum staff in Cardiff have said the painting is regarded as one of their most popular exhibits.

Julie Richards, of the National Museum and Galleries of Wales, said: "At the time she was painted, sitters would not normally look straight at you.

"And we may think it laughable now, but she is showing an hint of ankle, which was seen at the time as very flirtatious.

"But now she captivates everyone who comes into the gallery, she's like part of the family.

The blue lady is iconic - she has an international reputation.
Fine art curator Anne Sumner

"Her postcards sell by the hundred, almost all our visitors go home with one."

A shortlist of 10 works will be drawn up on 15 August and the result of the online vote by the radio programme's listeners will be broadcast in September.

Anne Sumner, fine art curator of the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff, said he was keen to see "one of the finest artworks in Wales on that list".

She said: "It's a painting that has been famous from the time that it was painted. It was on display at the first impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874.

"And it features Henriette Henriot, who became a famous actress, as a 17-year-old when she was just beginning her career.

La Parisienne, Renoir
Building in Naples, Thomas Jones
San Giorgio Maggiore, Monet
Study for a self portrait, Francis Bacon
A Calm, Van de Capelle

"When the term 'impressionist' was coined it was used as a negative phrase, but the first revue of La Parisienne was far from negative," she added.

"Jean Povaire wrote in the journal La Rapelle 'this little lady is trying hard to look chaste'.

"The dress which is extremely well painted is heavenly blue and gorgeous.'"

La Parisienne is one of 50 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings housed in Cardiff.

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