Why shouldn’t art be pretty? – Renoir

Even though Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the initiators of impressionism his painting’s themes were different from the rest. The Impressionists (Monet, Degas, Sisley, Manet, and Pissaro) made paintings- ‘en plein air’ (outdoors), he preferred making figure’s over landscapes, particularly of women. All his paintings had pleasing themes, subjects with joyful expressions and beautiful rosy faces. He once quoted- Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.

Dance at le Moulin de la Galette (shown above) is one of his most popular masterpieces. One of his recurring themes was to illustrate the celebratory nature of the Parisians. The artwork shows, couples dancing in the open-air dance hall and café on a Sunday afternoon. The joyful mood and carefree ambiance fashioned by Renoir reflects the typical life style of the Moulin society. His hallmark technique of short and quick brush strokes makes the subjects look animated and vibrant. Renoir figures had soft contours, mildly blending with each other which made them look blurred, adding a dreamy feel to the painting.

The entire canvas is covered with spots of light and shadow, suggesting bright sunlight filtering through the trees. This adds a gleaming summery experience to the scenario. On the whole, he managed to capture the vivacious spirit of the Parisian’s very skillfully.

Another favorite theme of the artist was portraying people engaged in their daily life in informal situations. ‘Girls at piano’ and ‘In the Meadow’ (shown below) are two such artworks that captured relaxed and casual real life scenarios. The former, depicts young girls enjoying their favorite pastime of playing the piano, which was typical of that time. Models for both the paintings are same, the second painting –‘In the Meadow’ shows an intimate view of two young girl’s leisurely picking flowers.

Girls at piano

In the Meadow

One of Renoir’s most delightful, life size compositions of contemporary life is- ‘Country Dance’ (shown below), it shows a young couple dancing in an open-air restaurant. Numerous elements of the artwork indicate that it’s a spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment dance. The unfinished meal in the background, the fallen hat and the seated crowd on the left, are the visual evidence. The supple brushstrokes and superbly crafted pose adds grace to dance movement.

Renoir focuses on the pleasure of the couple, their closeness and lady’s gleeful expressions are the highlight of the painting. The young woman, totally absorbed in the moment, cheerfully smiles at the viewers involving them in her experience.

Country Dance

In his lifetime Renoir painted around 6000 paintings, he was also well-known for his still life’s of fruits and flowers. Even though he wasn’t an outdoor artist, his experimental landscapes were no less picturesque than the other impressionist artists. Shown below are some of his other popular artworks:-

Woman with a Parasol in a garden

La Grenouillere

Bouquet in a Vase and Bouquet of Chrysanthemums

Mixed Flowers in an Earthenware and Still Life with Bouquet