Pierre-Auguste Renoir… by Peter H. Feist

There were many “ladies’ painters” in those days, skilled craftsmen of the art of painting and willing flatterers of the tastes of the upper middle class … Renoir, who had to live on his art, did not always manage to escape the danger of superficiality in his portraits. He was quite capable of painting a brilliant picture of gleaming silk and velvet, but he never did so unless his heart was in it, and so his natural naivety protected him from the false glitter of the fashionable. He would observe real life rather than studied poses, and his painting were a celebration of the freshmess nad beauty of simple, unspoilt image.

Young woman with a Veil - 1875 - Oil on canvas - Musee de Louvre, Paris, France

For Renoir neither black nor white were dead colours that always stayed the same. On the contrary, he knew how to make black come to life. Black was very common in people’s dresses ффе the time, and Renoir often managed to bring this colour into its own by mixing red or blue into it. Quoting Tintoretto as his authority, he even used to call black the queen of colours.

The Swing - 1876 - Oil on canvas - Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France The Umbrellas - 1883 - Oil on canvas - The National Gallery, London, UK

He(Renoir) saw girls and women as exclusively animal-like creatures that were mainly guided by their instincts. It was a dominant view in contemporary society that women were generally less intelligent and more instinctive creatures. … His girls are endowed with no more “soul” than their bodies are able to express. They are without spirit or intellect or even the awareness that they form part of the society at large. In their abundant sumptuousness, they were like beautiful animals for him, or like fruits or flowers.

La Loge - 1874 - Oil on canvas - Courtauld Institute Galleries, London, UK The First Outing - 1877 - Oil on canvas - The National Gallery, London, UK

“Nature leads the artist into loneliness; I want to remain among people.”


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