Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: French Impressionist for blogagog

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Since blogagog mentioned Renoir, I figured I may as well look into him. So I did. He was French, lived from 1841 - 1919, was an Impressionist, and was the friend of many of the most famous artists of the time. Like blogagog, I prefer the Art I look at to resemble what it claims to be. Impressionism sidles away from reality, or as one puts it "... under [the] influence of Impressionism, recreation of objective reality was discouraged and replaced by the practice of developing oneÂ’s subjective response to a piece of work to actual experience."

Thus you have to view the Impressionist painting from a distance to get what it is. Stand too close to the painting and you become lost in the brushstrokes. The canvas becomes thoroughly meaningless.

He continues: "So, the immediate visual impression created by the use of unmixed primary colors, small strokes, partially modeled shapes and the element of reflected light turned out to be the main characteristics of Impressionism. Free movement of the painter’s arm with brush in his hand and eyes on the object, made this style more popular and satisfying for all, as there was more margin for the artist’s point of view and angel of perception to be rendered through a more human and more energetic approach. It was really a treat to imprison the changing light and varying ambiance in no time. This brought in an altogether new move toward observing normal things under certain spell of making an “Impression” for that; artist’s eye befell as the platform to study and process available panorama."

Ahem! Uhh ... okay. So it's not as bad as Cubism, but it doesn't give me the satisfaction of Realism. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is the group of artists that I prefer. But never mind me, let's take a look at the works of Renoir.

Free Image Hosting at La Promenade was painted in 1875. From the thumbnail, you get a good idea what the image should look like. A nice scene, right? Sunlight peeks through the leaves of the trees and dapples the man's pants with light. His nose is lit, while his face is shaded by his hat. The woman is still in full light, as the man helps her along.

And the picture has a hazy quality, as if the pollen count was way up there! Click on the image to get a bigger view of this. Too close to the picture and the woman looks old, the man looks unfinished, perhaps the Village Idiot. The dappling of the distance becomes odd splashes of light color.

Impressionist painting does take tremendous talent and skill. To paint an impression of something, but not the actual something, to suggest something, while only hinting at it in paint, is a technique that needs to be taught, or practiced. This is not a painting technique that is easy. Much like Pointillism, to make an image that the viewer can recognize, takes correct technique and the ability to "see" the picture while not painting the actual object of the picture. Does that make sense?

I painted - Oils, then later, Acrylics - as a younger man, and in my teens. I loved it, though I hated the amount of time it takes. I always found myself struggling, close up to the canvas, fighting to get the tiniest of details into the image. Why? Because I was untrained. There are techniques which allow the painter to "hint" at things that do not need to be painted in their fullness.

As usual, I'm using my own feeble understanding to explain some of this. You have to know that there is a huge vocabulary regarding paiandng adn styles, techniques, and so on. Most of it is incomprehensible taveragevergae person. That's you and me! Frankly, most of the words used to describe these techniques is gobbledy-gook. And we all know it! LOL

Free Image Hosting at"The Boating Party Lunch", painted in 1881, is a very busy picture! Lots of people, lots of food, wine, and such. The thumbnail doesn't do it justice, but again, too close and the painting is not very good. Click on the image to get a better flavor of this. Renoir has fun with light. His contrasts here are really nice. Do you see the grapes strewn on the table in the foreground? The reflections on the glasses and bottles? For me, the 5 people in the upper right and center, detract from the picture, like afterthoughts. They're too close and just clutter the image. See? Even a schlub like me can have criticism.

And lost in that very busy lunch party, do you see the sailboats? The fellow in the odd hat and button-front t-shirt on the left may be looking at them. I like the faces here. The noses, lips, even the little dog! Did you see the dog?

But I don't care for the painting overall. Why? This is one of those paintings that I might hang on the wall. But it is not something I would see every day. No matter where I hung it it would fade into the background like wallpaper, or knick-knacks. That's what you should go for when you want "Art" for your living room, bedroom, or whatever. It has to speak to you all the time. Renoir doesn't do that for me. I'm sure he does that for lots of other people. Art is, after all, subjective.

Free Image Hosting at A last image of Renoir's, this from 1875, showing one of his friends. "Claude Monet Painting in his Garden at Argenteuil". Click on the image for a closer look. Again, you will see how easy it is, close up, to get lost in brushstrokes and lose the picture itself. This is not one of Renoir's best, but it does show Impressionism well. And it shows one of his friends at work.

One interesting note: among Renoir's students was Daniel Ridgway Knight, who was two years older than Renoir. Knight, an American Naturalist painter, did not paint in the Impressionist style. Knight is among my favorites for his lush, pastoral scenes, and the wonderful innocence of his human subjects.

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"Hailing The Ferry"

*sigh* Okay, I will post on Daniel Ridgway Knight next. (as if this is a huge sacrifice? Heheheee!)


WomanHonorThyself said...

splashes of light and color!..The depth of Art will never cease to amaze me...thanks Benning..for the stunning post!

blogagog said...

Thanks much Benning. It's nice to hear that dislike of Renoir's paintings doesn't make me unsophisticated (a bunch of other things do though).

benning said...

Well, scratching one's buttocks with the kitchen spatula does make one unsophisticated. But tastes are subjective.

That explains the plethora of different cheeses and wines, the proliferation of different coffees and candies, the preference some have for Marvel comics while others swear by DC comics. Everybody has their faves. :D

Did you care for the image at the very bottom, "Hailing The Ferry"? As I noted, that artist studied under Renoir, but his style was a quantum leap away from Impressionism.