Saturday, August 17, 2013

Reassessing Renoir

The Art Institute of Chicago is a wonderful place to explore. I believe it would take a few weeks of daily visits to see everything there is to see, but still that wouldn't leave time to actually study the works on display.

While in Iowa finishing up our visit to the town of our family origins, Courtney and I were studying a map and trying to figure out where we would be for the next few days. We discovered that Chicago was pretty close and right next to Chicago was a Great Lake... Michigan to be exact.

We dipped our toes in the Mississippi, why not a Great Lake? Asking that question is how we ended up at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I am a graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle and I don't remember ever seeing an art museum on campus. It was the early 90's, but still,  I did think all the Art Institutes were connected and that you could easily transfer from one school to the next and still get the same education and the same opportunities. After seeing the massively amazing Art Institute of Chicago, I have decided one is not interchangeable with the next.

While dashing around looking at all the displays, I stumbled upon a Renoir. It was somewhere between the Talouse Latrec pieces and the Salvador Dali offerings. This made me pause. I have heard some criticism towards the inclusion of Auguste Pierre Renoir into the Great Masters of Art for his Impressionist Paintings.

Auguste Pierre Renoir, 1841–1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau." Wikipedia

Let us look for a moment at a comparison within this tradition from Rubens to Watteau (click on the painting to enlarge):
A Girl with a Watering Can,
1876, Auguste Pierre Renoir
The Honeysuckle Bower,
1609, Peter Paul Rubens
Commedia dell' Arte,
1718-19, Antoine Watteau

I do not understand how the Renoir is "the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau." I really would like to know how these paintings are linked and what tradition is this quote in reference to?

Renoir is an impressionist painter, Watteau was into Rococo, and Rubens was Baroque. I suppose we could draw a line from the exacting work of Rubens to the less exacting style of Watteau and then ultimately to the Renoir as the style loosens considerably from the other two.

I find this interesting, and yet I do not know the answer.

Feel free to chime in.

Madame Leon Clapisson, 1883

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