Thursday, February 18, 2010

Not Just a Pretty Face

“For me, a picture, since it is easel paintings that we have to paint, should be something lovable, joyful, and pretty: yes, pretty!,” Pierre-August Renoir once said in self-defense. “I know how difficult it is to get people to admit that a picture can be joyful and still be a very great painting.” Ever since rising to prominence with the generation of the Impressionists, Renoir has felt the sting of the beauty without the brains label. Anne Distel’s Renoir, a mammoth new monograph from Abbeville Press, wants to prove that Renoir is much more than just a pretty face.

[Image: Renoir, By the Seashore (1883)]

[Many thanks to Abbeville Press for providing me with a review copy of Anne Distel’s Renoir.]


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Sounds like a fine work by Anne Distel. Are you familiar with the book "Renoir, My Father", written by the painter's son, the film maker and playwright Jean Renoir? I have just finished it and enjoyed Jean Renoir's recollections of his father immensely.

It is not a biography in the strict sense, but more of a collection of memories of his father. Many are based on the talks that Jean had with Renoir not long before the painter's death during the time when Jean was sent home from the World War I trenches after he had been injured in combat. Jean Renoir did not actually write the book until around 30 years, so he says he had to do some creative remembering and conjuring. The result is a beautiful and memorable portrait of Auguste Pierre Renoir.

I.O. said...

Thanks for the interesting book recommendation.

An aspect of Renoir's sense of beauty was his interest or even obsession with feminine beauty or femininity.
The following article (blog) tries to make a point of, how far R. went:
Cara Healey, (Princeton Class of 2009): "Renoir’s Daughters: How Renoir Feminized His Sons"

Anonymous said... is an interesting web to find more than 1000 museums in Spain.

MadSilence said...

While I wholeheartedly agree with Renoir that paintings should be "lovable, joyful, and pretty: yes, pretty" he's not my favorite Impressionist. A bit too effusive, too bright, too fulsome.

Bob said...

It's funny that you dislike Renoir for being "too effusive, too bright," etc. That was always my take on him until a few years ago. One of my favorite poets, Richard Wilbur, often gets slammed for not being tortured or dark enough, too. Wilbur responds that he's just not that guy and that he's got a great life, great marriage, etc. I think we can't hold it against artists who aren't tortured ala Van Gogh. Van Gogh's angst speaks to our angst and gives us comfort, but we should also let Renoir's/Wilbur's joy speak to our joy not to give us comfort but to celebrate joy itself.