People either hate Renoir, or they love him. I have yet to meet anyone indifferent about him. I’ve been reading Barbara Ehrlich White’s “Renoir, His Life, Art, and Letters.”
As I have always said, personal correspondence sheds a lot of light on the life of an artist. No one writes letters anymore, and our correspondence with other artists is often limited to a string of 146 characters. I sometimes wonder how people will understand what we do when there is no supporting evidence of the past. I guess Facebook posts will become the new standard that all artists will be held to. Maybe I should leave the foolishness of social media behind.
Most of Renoir’s critics dislike his paintings for their “sweetness” and the seemingly saccharine subjects he has chosen to paint. Many fail to realize that the artists’ world quite literally became that of the women that surrounded him. Increasingly infirm, his caregivers were women and their children. There were no men in his life besides his sons and the occasional visitor. Like most artists, he limited himself to painting what he saw around him.
Because of his mobility issues, he couldn’t traipse around the countryside like some of his other artist friends to paint an interesting landscape. His subject matter became increasingly limited to those around him and what was placed before him to paint. During his arthritic attacks, he would often request his materials to help himself work through the tremendous pain he was in. A few hours before he died, he was still painting a still life at the easel even though he had contracted pneumonia and was gravely ill.
Renoir liked to keep things simple. Being of a working-class background, the answers to the questions posed to him were often flippant or simplistic. It often appears that he kept his cards close to his chest more often than not where his ideas about painting were concerned.
Renoir is still a painter’s painter. If you take the time and can move past the subject matter, you quickly realize that you are dealing with a highly skilled painter. Not only was Renoir a highly skilled painter but an excellent draughtsman. Drawing played a significant role in his preparatory work, just as it should in ours.
I suggest that everyone take another serious look at this master artist.
“The work of art must seize upon you, wrap you up in itself, carry you away. It is the means by which the artist conveys his passion; it is the current which he puts forth which sweeps you along in his passion.”
~ Pierre-Auguste Renoir ~