“Renoir. Intimacy” / The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza / Madrid

Untill 22 January 2017

Writing about his father, the filmmaker Jean Renoir said: “He looked at flowers, women and clouds in the sky as other men touch and caress.” “Renoir. Intimacy”, the first retrospective in Spain to focus on the Impressionist painter Pierre‐Auguste Renoir (1841‐1919), will challenge the traditional concept that reduces Impressionism to the “purely visual”. Rather, it will emphasise the central role played by tactile sensations in Renoir’s paintings, which are present in all the different phases of his career and are expressed through a wide range of genres including group scenes, portraits, nudes, still lifes and landscapes.

The exhibition will present a survey of more than 75 works by the artist loaned from museums and collections worldwide, including the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the National Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. “Renoir. Intimacy” will show how the artist made use of the tactile qualities of volume, paint and textures as a vehicle to evoke intimacy in its various forms (friendship, the family or erotic ties) and how that imagery connects the work to the viewer through the sensuality of the brushstroke and the pictorial surface.

“Intimate Renoir” is structured into five thematic sections: Impressionism, Portraits, Landscapes, Family and domestic Scenes and Bathers.

The Impressionist phase, from 1869 to 1880, occupies three rooms in the exhibition and features some of Renoir’s most iconic works, including After the Luncheon (1879), a life study for Le Moulin de la Galette (1875‐1876), and Bathing in the Seine (La Grenouillère) of 1869, one of the works that Renoir executed in La Grenouillère, a popular area for leisure activities on the outskirts of Paris where he worked with Monet. A selection of female portraits set outdoors or in interiors, including Portrait of Madame Claude Monet (1872‐1874), portraits of couples such as La Promenade (1870), in addition to an Impressionist landscape, Woman with a Parasol in a Garden (1875), complete this section.

By 1881 the Impressionist approach seemed to be exhausted and the group’s members moved apart. Renoir turned his gaze to the classical tradition, from Raphael to Jean‐Auguste Dominique Ingres. While maintaining the use of an Impressionist pictorial language, his works now reveal a greater emphasis on drawing.

From the late 1870s and during the rest of the following decade Renoir gained a growing reputation as a portraitist, becoming one of the most solicited by Parisian high society. His depictions of Mlle. Charlotte Berthier (1883), Portrait of the Poet Alice VallièresMerzbach (1913), the portrait of his dealer Paul Durand Ruel (1910) and of his sons Joseph DurandRuel (1882) and Charles and Georges DurandRuel (1882) are among the examples of this facet of his output on display.

The room devoted to landscapes includes views of the Normandy coast and the Channel Islands, such as Hills around the Bay of Moulin Huet, Guernsey (1883), Provence, where he shared pictorial motifs with his friend Cézanne, among them Mont Sainte Victoire (ca. 1888‐1889) and various locations in southern Italy, including The Bay of Salerno (Landscape of the South) of 1881.

The exhibition continues with family and domestic scenes featuring the artist’s children, such as Coco eating his Soup (1905) and Jean dressed as a Hunter (1910); the artist’s wife Aline, depicted in Motherhood (1885), painted to mark the birth of their first son Pierre, and in Aline Renoir Nursing her Baby (1915); and other members of his closest circle. The latter included Gabrielle Renard, the family’s nanny and a distant relative of Aline, who became one of Renoir’s favourite models, seen here in Boy with an Apple or Gabrielle, Jean Renoir and a Girl (ca. 1895‐1896), and Andrée Heuschling, who would marry Renoir’s son Jean after the artist’s death, seen here in The Concert (1918‐1919).

The nude was among Renoir’s prefered subjects, although with the exception of Degas the Impressionists tended to avoid it as they considered it an academic theme. Engaged in his own stylistic evolution, Renoir achieved one of the high points of his career with his scenes of bathers: a serie of nudes set outdoors in which the artist celebrated a type of timeless nature devoid of any reference to the modern world. The result is an idyllic vision characterised by the sensuality of the models, richness of colouring and plenitude of the forms.

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