How to View Renoir

February 18, 2010
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Renoir wasn’t always popular. As a man who helped pioneer the age of impressionism, the artist’s dabbling in modernism was not quite met with a warm response. A decade later, author Roger Benjamin has a simple solution to those who dismissed the aging painter—look at the paintings through the eyes of Matisse, a friend and champion of Renoir. To see late Renoir through Matisse’s eyes is to love late Renoir.

Benjamin’s essay, “Why Did Matisse Love Late Renoir?” in the exhibition catalogue breaks down the process nicely.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "The Concert" (1918-19), collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Gift of Reuben Wells Leonard Estate Photo © 2009 Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto/The Bridgeman Art Library

Step One
“Learn to love the indecisive in form. Away with specification, all sharp lines. Renoir’s world is a cottony world.”

Step Two
“To love his color you must accept red and pink as the principal colors that translate the world, with green and pale blues as the primary obverse.”

Step Three
“To understand his landscape you have to accept that Renoir’s was a life confined by illness. In it, you are either inside—a theater of curtains, upholstered chairs, and costume props—or you are outside it, near the house: a world of gravel paths, old stone walls, clumps of foliage…”

Step Four
“To love his women you have to forget the body we know from the media today, and intuit one based on the sensation of proximity, indeed intimacy.”

Annie Carone, Jr. Associate, Communications