Renoir himself made this remark and it applies to no other painting so well as to his own. Sufficient unto themselves, his works need no commentary, and it is impossible not to feel a little uneasy as we discuss them, for where can we hope to find the appropriate words--words simple, heartfelt and concrete enough?
If ever an artist stood aloof from theories and ideas, that artist was Renoir. No art is more alien than his to the phrasemaking of aestheticians; none is so perfectly attuned to the cords of the senses. We do him violence if, in appraising his works, we lapse into terms even faintly abstract. "Theories don't make a good picture," he said. "Most of the time they only serve to mask an artist's shortcomings. Theories are only worked out afterwards anyhow."
With his instinctive distrust of abstraction, Renoir was led to regard his art as a form of manual labor. "Painting is not a matter of dreaming up or being inspired. It's a handicraft first of all and a good craftsman is wanted to do it well," was his opinion. At the same time he expressed his regret that the old apprenticeship system had given way to the academic instruction of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. All his life he made a point of doing a good job of it, turning out a well-painted picture, with a texture as fine and full-bodied as he could make it. In his last years he grew increasingly concerned with evolving methods of work that would ensure his canvases against deterioration.
Renoir never belittled the headwork that necessarily goes to the making of a work of art. Though perhaps he leaned a little heavily on the idea in order to get his point across, his view was that the mind might suitably be brought to bear on problems words alone can offer no solution to, but which brushes and pigments can.
And what he thought he carried out in actual practice. Though in the early days he was a familiar figure at the gatherings at the Café Guerbois, he seldom took an active part in the talk, and was not long in showing his true colors. Renoir had a horror not only of art theories, but of all that might encroach on the time he set aside for his work--which, to his mind, was the only way of coming to grips with the real problems of art. "Without actually falling out with them, I have had to break with many good friends. They could never be on time, never go home to bed, and held forth on art far too eloquently. I have no use for that nonsense."
The same distaste came out repeatedly in his conversation. "Don't ask me whether painting ought to be objective or subjective. All I can say is I don't give a damn, one way or the other. I am always bowled over when young painters come to me and blandly inquire what the ends of painting are. Some of them even explain to me why I happened to put on red or blue at such and such a spot on my canvas... Our craft is not an easy one by any means, and I can understand the doubts and anxiety it gives rise to. But after all a little simplicity, a little sincerity!"
His own simplicity and sincerity were as genuine as Corot's, and they are the stuff of his greatness, both as a man and an artist. He rejoiced in being alive, and painting was his way of expressing love of life. The forces within him clamored for fulfillment. And so he painted, with no thought for analyzing the creative act.
Auguste Renoir, Ball at the Moulin De La Galette, Young Girls on the River Bank, Impressionism, Girls Picking Flowers in a Meadow, Picking Flowers, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, The Apple Seller, Alice Gamby in the Garden, Young Girl Sitting in the Grass, Dance at Bougival, Little Algerian Girl, Reading Woman, Deux Soeurs, Alphonsine Fournaise at the Grenouillere, Young Girls at the Piano, L'Estaque, Yvonne et Jean, La Baigneuse, In the Luxembourg Gardens, Jeune Fille Blonde, Auguste Renoir Portraits, Dahlias, The Little Fisherwoman (Marthe Berard), The Excursionist, On the Terrace, Baigneuse Au Griffon, Bather with Griffon, Lady with a Parasol, The Pond at Fees, La Loge
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