Renoir

Parkstone International
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Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges on 25 February 1841. In 1854, the boy’s parents took him from school and found a place for him in the Lévy brothers’ workshop, where he was to learn to paint porcelain. Renoir’s younger brother Edmond had this to say this about the move: “From what he drew in charcoal on the walls, they concluded that he had the ability for an artist’s profession. That was how our parents came to put him to learn the trade of porcelain painter.” One of the Lévys’ workers, Emile Laporte, painted in oils in his spare time. He suggested Renoir makes use of his canvases and paints. This offer resulted in the appearance of the first painting by the future impressionist. In 1862 Renoir passed the examinations and entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and, simultaneously, one of the independent studios, where instruction was given by Charles Gleyre, a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The second, perhaps even the first, great event of this period in Renoir’s life was his meeting, in Gleyre’s studio, with those who were to become his best friends for the rest of his days and who shared his ideas about art. Much later, when he was already a mature artist, Renoir had the opportunity to see works by Rembrandt in Holland, Velázquez, Goya and El Greco in Spain, and Raphael in Italy. However, Renoir lived and breathed ideas of a new kind of art. He always found his inspirations in the Louvre. “For me, in the Gleyre era, the Louvre was Delacroix,” he confessed to Jean. For Renoir, the First Impressionist Exhibition was the moment his vision of art and the artist was affirmed. This period in Renoir’s life was marked by one further significant event. In 1873 he moved to Montmartre, to the house at 35 Rue Saint-Georges, where he lived until 1884. Renoir remained loyal to Montmartre for the rest of his life. Here he found his “plein-air” subjects, his models and even his family. It was in the 1870s that Renoir acquired the friends who would stay with him for the remainder of his days. One of them was the art-dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who began to buy his paintings in 1872. In summer, Renoir continued to paint a great deal outdoors together with Monet. He would travel out to Argenteuil, where Monet rented a house for his family. Edouard Manet sometimes worked with them too. In 1877, at the Third Impressionist Exhibition, Renoir presented a panorama of over twenty paintings. They included landscapes created in Paris, on the Seine, outside the city and in Claude Monet’s garden; studies of women’s heads and bouquets of flowers; portraits of Sisley, the actress Jeanne Samary, the writer Alphonse Daudet and the politician Spuller; and also The Swing and The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette. Finally, in the 1880s Renoir hit a “winning streak”. He was commissioned by rich financiers, the owner of the Grands Magasins du Louvre and Senator Goujon. His paintings were exhibited in London and Brussels, as well as at the Seventh International Exhibition held at Georges Petit’s in Paris in 1886. In a letter to Durand-Ruel, then in New York, Renoir wrote: “The Petit exhibition has opened and is not doing badly, so they say. After all, it’s so hard to judge about yourself. I think I have managed to take a step forward towards public respect. A small step, but even that is something.”
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About the author

Natalia Brodskaya is a curator at The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. She has published monographs on Renoir, Derain, Vlaminck, and Van Dongen, as well as many books on the Fauves and Naive art. She is currently working on a study of French painters at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Parkstone International
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Published on
Jan 7, 2014
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781781609415
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Language
English
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Genres
Art / European
Art / General
Art / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
Art / Individual Artists / Monographs
Art / Techniques / Painting
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For Claude Monet the designation ‘impressionist’ always remained a source of pride. In spite of all the things critics have written about his work, Monet continued to be a true impressionist to the end of his very long life. He was so by deep conviction, and for his Impressionism he may have sacrificed many other opportunities that his enormous talent held out to him. Monet did not paint classical compositions with figures, and he did not become a portraitist, although his professional training included those skills. He chose a single genre for himself, landscape painting, and in that he achieved a degree of perfection none of his contemporaries managed to attain. Yet the little boy began by drawing caricatures. Boudin advised Monet to stop doing caricatures and to take up landscapes instead. The sea, the sky, animals, people, and trees are beautiful in the exact state in which nature created them – surrounded by air and light. Indeed, it was Boudin who passed on to Monet his conviction of the importance of working in the open air, which Monet would in turn transmit to his impressionist friends. Monet did not want to enrol at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He chose to attend a private school, L’Académie Suisse, established by an ex-model on the Quai d’Orfèvres near the Pont Saint-Michel. One could draw and paint from a live model there for a modest fee. This was where Monet met the future impressionist Camille Pissarro. Later in Gleyre’s studio, Monet met Auguste Renoir Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille. Monet considered it very important that Boudin be introduced to his new friends. He also told his friends of another painter he had found in Normandy. This was the remarkable Dutchman Jongkind. His landscapes were saturated with colour, and their sincerity, at times even their naïveté, was combined with subtle observation of the Normandy shore’s variable nature. At this time Monet’s landscapes were not yet characterized by great richness of colour. Rather, they recalled the tonalities of paintings by the Barbizon artists, and Boudin’s seascapes. He composed a range of colour based on yellow-brown or blue-grey. At the Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 Monet presented a series of paintings for the first time: seven views of the Saint-Lazare train station. He selected them from among twelve he had painted at the station. This motif in Monet’s work is in line not only with Manet’s Chemin de fer (The Railway) and with his own landscapes featuring trains and stations at Argenteuil, but also with a trend that surfaced after the railways first began to appear. In 1883, Monet had bought a house in the village of Giverny, near the little town of Vernon. At Giverny, series painting became one of his chief working procedures. Meadows became his permanent workplace. When a journalist, who had come from Vétheuil to interview Monet, asked him where his studio was, the painter answered, “My studio! I’ve never had a studio, and I can’t see why one would lock oneself up in a room. To draw, yes – to paint, no”. Then, broadly gesturing towards the Seine, the hills, and the silhouette of the little town, he declared, “There’s my real studio.”Monet began to go to London in the last decade of the nineteenth century. He began all his London paintings working directly from nature, but completed many of them afterwards, at Giverny. The series formed an indivisible whole, and the painter had to work on all his canvases at one time. A friend of Monet’s, the writer Octave Mirbeau, wrote that he had accomplished a miracle. With the help of colours he had succeeded in recreating on the canvas something almost impossible to capture: he was reproducing sunlight, enriching it with an infinite number of reflections. Alone among the impressionists, Claude Monet took an almost scientific study of the possibilities of colour to its limits; it is unlikely that one could have gone any further in that direction.
Lautrec studied with two of the most admired academic painters of the day, Léon Bonnat and Fernand Cormon. Lautrec’s time in the studios of Bonnat and Cormon had the advantage of introducing him to the nude as a subject. At that time life-drawing of the nude was the basis of all academic art training in nineteenth-century Paris. While still a student, Lautrec began to explore Parisian nightlife, which was to provide him with his greatest inspiration, and eventually undermined his health. Lautrec was an artist able to stamp his vision of the age in which he lived upon the imagination of future generations. Just as we see the English court of Charles I through the eyes of van Dyck and the Paris of Louis-Philippe through the eyes of Daumier, so we see the Paris of the 1890s and its most colourful personalities, through the eyes of Lautrec. The first great personality of Parisian nightlife whom Lautrec encountered – and a man who was to play an important role in helping Lautrec develop his artistic vision – was the cabaret singer Aristide Bruant. Bruant stood out as an heroic figure in what was the golden age of Parisian cabaret. Among the many other performers inspiring Lautrec in the 1890s were the dancers La Goulue and Valentin-le-Desossé (who both appear in the famous Moulin Rouge poster), and Jane Avril and Loïe Fuller, the singers Yvette Guilbert, May Belfort and Marcelle Lender, and the actress Réjane. Lautrec was, along with Degas, one of the great poets of the brothel. Degas explored the theme in the late 1870s in a series of monotype prints that are among his most remarkable and personal works. He depicts the somewhat ungainly posturing of the prostitutes and their clients with human warmth and a satirical humour that brings these prints closer to the art of Lautrec than anything else by Degas. However, the truthfulness with which Lautrec portrayed those aspects of life that most of his more respectable contemporaries preferred to sweep under the carpet naturally caused offence. The German critic Gensel probably spoke for many when he wrote: “There can of course be no talk of admiration for someone who is the master of the representation of all that is base and perverse. The only explanation as to how such filth – there can be no milder term for it – as Elles can be publicly exhibited without an outcry of indignations being heard is that one half of the general public does not understand the meaning of this cycle at all, and the other is ashamed of admitting that it does understand it.”
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