Lise Tréhot (14 March 1848 – 12 March 1922) was a French art model who posed for artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir from 1866 until 1872, during his early Salon period. She appeared in more than twenty paintings, including notable works such as Lise (1867) and In Summer (1868), and she was the model for almost all of Renoir’s work featuring female figures at this time. Tréhot married Georges Brière de l’Isle in 1883 and raised four children to whom she bequeathed two of Renoir’s paintings, Lise Sewing (1867–68) and Lise in a White Shawl (1872), both of which are currently held by the Dallas Museum of Art.
Lise Tréhot was born in Ecquevilly, Seine-et-Oise, France, on 14 March 1848, to Louis Tréhot and Amelie Elisabeth Boudin. Her father was the postmaster of the town until the mid-1850s, after which he moved the entire family to Paris where he sold lemonade and tobacco. She was the fourth in a family of six children, including three brothers and two sisters. A document from this time describes Tréhot’s profession as a dressmaker. Clémence Tréhot, her older sister, was the lover of artist Jules Le Coeur, who later introduced her to Pierre-Auguste Renoir at his house in Marlotte, possibly in June 1865.
Tréhot began modeling for Renoir when she was about eighteen and he was twenty-five. Early paintings of Tréhot at this time include Lise in a Straw Hat (1866) and Lise Sewing (1867–68). Renoir painted a modern nude of Tréhot as Diana (1867), but it was rejected by the Salon of 1867. Renoir found critical success the next year with Lise (1867), which was well received at the Salon of 1868. The Impressionist painting depicts Tréhot in a life-size portrait, strolling through a wooded park as sunlight falls through the trees. Art critic Zacharie Astruc described Tréhot in Lise as “the likeable Parisian girl in the woods”, and as a working-class girl.Émile Zola also approved, comparing Tréhot to Monet’s model and later wife Camille Doncieux. French art critic Théodore Duret later observed that because Renoir’s Lise was derivative of Gustave Courbet‘s technique, its appearance at the Salon “provoked no definite opposition”. However, Renoir’s decision to shadow Tréhot’s face in darkness and emphasize the reflection of sunlight from her white dress in Lise led several critics to ridicule Tréhot’s appearance due to the unusual contrast.
At the Salon of 1869, Tréhot appeared in a work named In Summer (1868), dressed casually in a loose blouse falling off her shoulders. John Collins notes that Tréhot’s “dark, heavy-set and expressionless features” worked well in such portraits, but were less successful in more formal, costume-oriented paintings such as The Engaged Couple (1868), where she poses with artist Alfred Sisley. In the summer of 1869, she accompanied Renoir to his parents’ house in the Ville-d’Avray, and made trips to the Seine near Bougival where Renoir painted scenes with Monet on the water. La Barque (1870) is thought to depict Lise during this summer holiday.
In total, Tréhot appeared in more than twenty paintings by Renoir during his early Salon period from approximately 1866 until 1872. According to art historian John House, “Lise was the model for virtually all of Renoir’s female figures at this time”.
Although little is known about the exact nature of Tréhot’s relationship with Renoir while she was modeling; she is said to have given birth to a baby boy named Pierre on 14 December 1868, but it is unclear what became of him and he may have died as an infant. On 21 July 1870, Tréhot gave birth to a baby girl named Jeanne (d. 1934) who was given to a wet nurse to raise as her own. Renoir continued to secretly support Jeanne financially until he died (and after his death with the help of Ambroise Vollard), but never publicly or legally acknowledged that she was his daughter during his lifetime.
For unknown reasons, Tréhot stopped modeling for Renoir after 1872; it was said that she never spoke to or saw him again. Although Tréhot was an important part of Renoir’s early career, he never mentioned her in any published interviews, memoirs, or biographies.