“The Trouble With Renoir”
Dr. Martha Lucy, deputy director for research, interpretation, and education at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, will present a special evening lecture titled “The Trouble with Renoir” on Friday, January 17, at 6 p.m., in the Pavilion Auditorium. This lecture is presented in conjunction with the special exhibition Renoir: The Body, The Senses, on view through January 26. The exhibition is half-price on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. No reservations are required; simulcast in the Kahn Auditorium.
Renoir is one of the most beloved artists of all time but also one of the most detested. While one critic in 1912 named him “the greatest living painter,” another, writing in 1986, called him “the worst artist ever to achieve canonical status.” What is it about Renoir that provokes such strong opinions? Lucy unpacks the wildly divergent reactions to Renoir over the past hundred years, focusing especially on the voluptuous nudes presented in the Kimbell’s special exhibition.
Lucy, a specialist in 19th-century European art, has published many essays on topics ranging from Darwinian themes in the work of Odilon Redon to the motif of the mirror in Impressionist painting. She is the co-author of Renoir in the Barnes Foundation (Yale University Press, 2012), the first scholarly catalogue of the Barnes’s enormous Renoir collection. Her current research focuses on images of the toilette in 19th-century visual culture and on the sense of touch during the Industrial Revolution.
Over the course of his long career, Pierre-Auguste Renoir continually turned to the human figure for artistic inspiration. The body—-particularly the nude—-was the defining subject of Renoir’s artistic practice from his early days as a student copying the old masters in the Louvre to the early 20th century, when his revolutionary style of painting inspired the masters of modernism. In recognition of the centenary of Renoir’s death, the Kimbell Art Museum presents Renoir: The Body, The Senses. This daring exhibition, featuring more than 60 works by Renoir, his sources, contemporaries and followers, is the first major exploration of Renoir’s unceasing interest in the human form. It reconsiders Renoir as a constantly evolving artist whose style moved from Realism into luminous Impressionism, culminating in the modern classicism of his last decades.
This exhibition is organized by the Kimbell Art Museum and the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional support is provided by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Fort Worth Tourism Public Improvement District. Promotional support is provided by American Airlines, NBC 5 and PaperCity.