The work of Auguste Renoir extends without interruption over a period of forty years. It appears to sum up the ideas and methods of Impressionist art so completely that, should it alone be saved from a general destruction, it would suffice to bear witness to this entire art movement. It has unfolded itself from 1865 to our days with a happy magnificence, and it allows us to distinguish several periods, in the technique at least, since the variety of its subjects is infinite. Like Manet, and like all truly great and powerful painters, M. Renoir has treated almost everything, nudes, portraits, subject pictures, seascapes and still-life, all with equal beauty.

His first manner shows him to be a very direct descendant of Boucher. His female nudes are altogether in eighteenth century taste and he uses the same technique as Boucher: fat and sleek paint of soft brilliancy, laid on with the palette knife, with precise strokes round the principal values; pink and ivory tints relieved by strong blues similar to those of enamels; the light distributed everywhere and almost excluding the opposition of the shadows; and, finally, vivacious attitudes and an effort towards decorative convention. Nevertheless, his Bathers, of which he has painted a large series, are in many ways thoroughly modern and personal. Renoir's nude is neither that of Monet, nor of Degas, whose main concern was truth, the last-named even trying to define in the undressed being such psychologic observations as are generally looked for in the features of the clothed being. Nor is Renoir's nude that of the academicians, that poetised nude arranged according to a pseudo-Greek ideal, which has nothing in common with contemporary women. What Renoir sees in the nude is less the line, than the brilliancy of the epidermis, the luminous, nacreous substance of the flesh: it is the "ideal clay"; and in this he shows the vision of a poet; he transfigures reality, but in a very different sense from that of the School. Renoir's woman comes from a primitive dream-land; she is an artless, wild creature, blooming in perfumed scrub. He sets her in backgrounds of foliage or of blue, foam-fringed torrents. She is a luxuriant, firm, healthy and naïve woman with a powerful body, a small head, her eyes wide open, thoughtless, brilliant and ignorant, her lips blood-red and her nostrils dilated; she is a gentle being, like the women of Tahiti, born in a tropical clime where vice is as unknown as shame, and where entire ingenuousness is a guarantee against all indecency. One cannot but be astonished at this mixture of "Japanism," savagism and eighteenth century taste, which constitutes inimitably the nude of Renoir.

Renoir - Dejeuner


Renoir - In the Box