Renoir Reading | Arts & Humanities Reviews

Rathbone, Eliza E. Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party. Phillips Collection. Oct. 2017. 144p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781911282006. $34.95. FINE ARTS

Impressionist Pierre-August Renoir’s famous painting Luncheon of the Boating Party is the glory of the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, and the subject of this exhibition catalog celebrating the museum’s 100th anniversary. Pictured are Renoir’s friends and acquaintances, the people of 1870s Paris—Rathbone names the various figures in the painting, including Renoir’s soon-to-be-bride, Aline Charigot, and discusses their relationship to the artist. This lighthearted gathering can be seen as a history painting of the times documenting the leisure of a creative group. The exhibition borrows paintings from other collections to add to the background of the creation of this painting en plein air. It is a meaningful educational rendition for modern eyes as well as an aesthetic masterpiece in which Phillips Collection chief curator emerita Rathbone and other scholars put together the pieces of its creation and historical significance. A chapter is devoted to Aline and her role in Renoir’s life; other chapters discuss the collectors who made Renoir successful and his painterly eye for props such as the clothes the models wear. VERDICT By explicating the pictorial representation of Renoir’s circle, this book provides a renewed appreciation for its milieu and highlights both history and aesthetics. Highly recommended for all art collections containing impressionist studies.—Ellen Bates, New York

Various. Renoir: Intimacy. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Apr. 2018. 200p. illus. notes. ISBN 9788415113881. $65. FINE ARTS 

In this exhibition catalog, curators Guillermo Solana (Thyssen-Bornemisza ­Museum, Spain) and Colin Bailey (Morgan Library & Museum, NY) focus on one particular aspect of his work, which they refer to as intimacy, the very personal response of the artist to his subject. Renoir used his brush to emphasize the sense of touch, the sensual caress of the layers of paint upon the canvas. Regardless of the type of painting, family scenes, portraits, or nudes, the connection between artist and subject was always a visceral, tactile one. The exhibition includes works from around the world as well as those in the curators’ own institutions and offers convincing evidence of this use of texture and volume to connect the painter with the surface of the canvas as well as the subject. For Renoir, to paint was to touch, to caress the surface with the strokes of his brush in his lifelong passion for the personal and intimate. ­VERDICT Familiar paintings take on a new aura in this volume and may be of interest to those who appreciate the work of Renoir.—Paula Frosch, ­Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York

redstarWhite, Barbara Ehrlich. Renoir: An Intimate Biography. Thames & Hudson. Oct. 2017. 432p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780500239575. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780500774038. BIOG

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) is known as one of the leading painters of the impressionist style, but he was so much more. White (Renoir: His Life, Art and Letters; Impressionism in Perspective) presents a well-rounded view of the artist’s personal and professional life in her new biography of the artist. For half a century, the author has studied more than 3,000 letters relating to Renoir, meaning she probably knows him better than any other living person. Through this “intimate biography” we learn all about Renoir’s intriguing life from years living in poverty to worldwide success, overshadowed by the loss of the use of his fingers. Despite it all, Renoir remained as optimistic as his artwork. His brightly colored paintings reflected his personality completely. While creating thousands of paintings he was able to maintain close relationships with fellow impressionists, art dealers, models, his family, and their families. VERDICT White’s readable, intriguing study sheds new light on misconceptions regarding Renoir’s personality. Readers with prior knowledge of the artist will love to learn more, while those interested in the impressionists will enjoy peeking into the lives of artists such as Monet, Cézanne, and others.—Rebecca Kluberdanz, New York P.L.

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