Picture sold by Wild Bunch has enjoyed healthy international career, drawing 3 million cinemagoers worldwide.

Gilles Bourdos’ Renoir, revolving around the impressionist artist’s obsession with a young model who re-fired his passion for painting as an old man, has been selected as France’s 2014 Foreign Language Oscar candidate.

Based on the true story of the relationship between Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Andrée Heuschling, the sumptuously shot picture unfolds against the backdrop of the artist’s estate in the South of France during World War Two.

Heuschling would marry Renoir’s son, the film director Jean Renoir, appearing in a number of his early silent films but the picture mainly focuses on how the beautiful young woman enraptured the elderly artist.

The film, which premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2012, sold some 500,000 tickets at home and another 3 million internationally. It grossed more than $2m in the US making it one of the most successful foreign language films there this year. 

A committee overseen by France’s National Cinema Centre (CNC) selected the country’s Foreign Language submission.

The committee members comprised Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Frémaux, CNC advance on receipts chief Paul Otchakovsky, actress Isbelle Adjani, veteran script supervisor Sylvette Baudrot, director Laurent Cantet, producer Estelle Fialon, who produced the Oscar-nominated The Gatekeepers, and producer and Cesar president Alain Terzian.

Renoir was not an obvious choice as this year’s French submission.

Abdelatif’s Kéchiche’s Palme d’Or winner Adele: Chapters 1 & 2 was regarded by many in the French industry as a strong candidate but its upcoming local release date of October 9 is two weeks shy of the October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013 domestic release window stipulated by the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Other potential submissions included Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo and Rebecca Zlotowski’sGrand Central but reportedly neither title won unanimous support. The strong international performance of Renoir is believed to have swung the committee in the film’s favour. 

The French selection committee also reportedly steered clear of commercial hits such as The Brats (Les Gamins), Paulette and La Cage Dorée following the failure of box office smashUntouchables to win favour with Academy members last year.

 In spite of Untouchables’ failure to make it on to the nominations short list last year, France still made a strong showing in the awards in 2013 due to the fact Austrian Michael Haneke’s Amour was a French co-production, shot in French with French cast and crew.

In 2012, French director Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist won five awards including best film and director.