The City of Turin, the GAM – Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Turin and Skira publisher present a splendid exhibition dedicated to the great French artist, with masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie collections in Paris.
The collaboration strongly desired by the Mayor, Piero Fassino, continues between the City of Turin, Musée d’Orsay and Skira publisher, which began in 2012 with the great exhibition dedicated to Degas.
Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Turin presents an extraordinary new exhibition dedicated to Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), artist among the protagonists, with Manet, Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, between the seventies of the nineteenth century and the first twenty years of the twentieth century, of the great season of French Impressionism. An important agreement signed between the GAM – Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Turin – Torino Musei Foundation, Skira publisherand the Musée d’Orsay in Paris – with Danilo Eccher, Director of the GAM, Massimo Vitta Zelman, President of Skira, and Guy Cogeval, President of the Musée d’Orsay and the Orangerie – made it possible to define a scientific project of great value, which brings to the Piedmontese capital a splendid exhibition, truly unique for the quality of the works presented.
The Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, which preserve the most complete collection in the world of Renoir’s work, have agreed to deprive themselves of sixty masterpieces for four months, to give life to an extraordinary exhibition that documents the whole activities of this great painter, witnessing the most significant moments and the turning points that, starting from the beginning, led the artist at the end of his career to a progressive departure from Impressionism.
The curation of the exhibition is entrusted to Sylvie Patry, Chief Conservator at the Musée d’Orsay and great specialist of Renoir, and Riccardo Passoni, Deputy Director of the GAM of Turin. Skira, in close collaboration with the Turin Museums Foundation, produces the exhibition, taking care of the organizational and promotional aspects and publishes its catalog.
The exhibition will be set up on the first floor of the GAM, in the Exhibition Area hall, within the path of the permanent collections, recently rearranged according to four new thematic itineraries. Also from the standpoint of the exhibition, the exhibition will therefore have the breath, ease and pleasantness of a great international exhibition. A work owned by GAM will also be exhibited: the Portrait of his son Pierre (1885), purchased on the interest of Lionello Venturi. This exhibition aims to cover the complex evolution of Renoir’s artistic career – active for over fifty years so as to produce over five thousand paintings and a very large number of drawings and watercolors -,highlighting the great variety and quality of his painting technique and the different topics addressed.
In the course of his life, Renoir is measured by experimenting with painting en plein air, side by side with his friend and colleague Monet, while at the same time completing works in the atelier. Also dedicating himself to portraiture on commission, he is surrounded by a close circle of admirers and patrons. As evidence of the success already achieved in life, just think of the fact that for his painting Madame Charpentier and her children(purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1907) the highest price paid in those years by a painting was paid. He is a personal friend of the Impressionists – such as Monet, Cézanne, Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Sisley and Caillebotte, with whom he discusses painting and organizes exhibitions – and encourages other great artists such as Matisse, Bonnard, Maurice Denis. Today he is considered one of the greatest masters at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, commonly known as Auguste Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919), was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that “Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.”
He was the father of actor Pierre Renoir (1885–1952), filmmaker Jean Renoir (1894–1979) and ceramic artist Claude Renoir (1901–1969). He was the grandfather of the filmmaker Claude Renoir (1913–1993), son of Pierre.
Renoir was one of the most convinced and spontaneous interpreters of the Impressionist movement. Prodigiously prolific artist, with as many as five thousand canvases and an equally large number of drawings and watercolors, Renoir has also distinguished himself for his versatility, so much so that we can distinguish numerous periods in his pictorial production. It is Renoir himself, in any case, who talks about his method of making art:
«I arrange my subject as I want, then I start to paint it as a child would. I want the red to be loud and ringing like a bell, when I can’t I add other reds and other colors until I get it. There are no other malice. I have no rules or methods; anyone can examine what I use or look at how I paint, and they will see that I have no secrets. I look at a nude and see myriads of small tints. I need to find out what makes the flesh vibrate on the canvas. Today we want to explain everything. But if a painting could be explained, it would no longer be art. Do you want me to tell you what the two qualities of art are for me? It must be indescribable and inimitable… The work of art must grab you, envelop you, transport you »
As it emerges from this quotation, Renoir related himself to painting in an absolutely anti-intellectualistic way and, although he too was intolerant of academic conventionalisms, he never contributed to the cause of Impressionism with theoretical reflections or with abstract statements. In fact, he repudiates every form of intellectualism and confesses a vivid confidence in the concrete experience of pictorial making, which is objected in the only means of expression of brushes and palettes: “work as a good worker”, “worker of painting”, “make of good painting »are in fact phrases that often recur in his correspondence. This decisive request for concreteness is reiterated by Renoir himself in his preface to the French edition of the Book of Artby Cennino Cennini (1911), where in addition to providing practical advice and suggestions for aspiring painters he affirms that «it might seem that we are very far from Cennino Cennini and from painting, yet it is not so, since painting is a profession like carpentry and iron working, and is subject to the same rules ». The critic Octave Mirbeau even points to the causes of Renoir’s greatness precisely in this peculiar conception of painting:
“While the theories, doctrines, aesthetics, metaphysics and physiologies of art followed one another, Renoir’s work developed year by year, month by month, day by day with the simplicity of a blooming flower, of a fruit that ripens Renoir has lived and paints. He did his job, and therein lies all his genius. This is why his whole life and work are a lesson in happiness ”
From 1913 to 1918, in collaboration with Richard Guino, a young sculptor of Catalan origin presented to him by Aristide Maillol and Ambroise Vollard, he created a set of major pieces: Vénus Victrix, le Jugement de Pâris, la Grande Laveuse, le Forgeron.
The attribution of these collaborative works was revised sixty years after their creation, after a long trial initiated in 1965 by Michel Guino, son of Richard and sculptor himself, who worked to publicize the work of his father. After a meticulous analysis of the pieces, the processes which presided over their creation and the hearing of numerous artists, the quality of co-author was recognized by Richard Guino in 1971 by the third civil chamber of the Paris court and definitively established by the Court of Cassation in 1973. The art historian Paul Haesaerts specifies from 1947 in Renoir sculpteur:“Guino was never simply an actor reading a text or a musician mechanically interpreting a score. Guino was involved body and soul in the creative act. We can even say with certainty that if it had not been there, the sculptures of Renoir would not have seen the light of day. Guino was essential “.
The trial by Guino’s son was not brought “against” Renoir, a reduction conveyed in certain texts or newspaper articles referring to the “affair”. It was a question of helping to reveal the exceptional history of this creative process to restore Guino’s original contribution to the sculpted work, initially obscured by Vollard. A sculptor “practitioner” reproduces or enlarges an already existing model. Guino, for his part, transposes techniques: we move from Renoir’s painting to Guino’s sculpture, the spirit of painting is reflected in the spirit of sculpture. Proven transmutation between two artists. The phenomenon could be accomplished thanks to their friendship and intense community of view. The painter with his fabrics and the sculptor working the clay of Collettes. VS’
After interrupting his collaboration with Guino, he worked with the sculptor Louis Morel (1887-1975), originally from Essoyes. Together, they make the terracotta, two Dancers and a Flute player.
Due to the aforementioned reasons Renoir was never animated by the avid idealism of a Monet or a Cézanne and, on the contrary, he often resorted to the example of the ancient masters. Compared to his colleagues Renoir felt “heir to a living force accumulated over the generations” (Benedetti) and for this reason he was more willing to take inspiration from the legacy of the past. Even in high school, in fact, he never ceased to consider the museum as the place congenial to the training of an artist, recognizing his ability to teach “that taste of painting that only nature cannot give us”.
Renoir’s work acts as a meeting point (or a clash) between very heterogeneous artistic experiences. Di Rubens was very attracted to the vigor and body of the brushstroke and the masterly rendering of the highly expressive complexions, while the French Rococo painters – Fragonard and Boucher first of all – greatly appreciated the delicacy and fragrance of the chromatic material. A decisive role in Renoir’s artistic reflection is also played by the Barbizon painters, from whom he borrowed the taste for the plein air and the habit of evaluating the correspondences between landscapes and moods. The influence of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was also important, an authentic “black beast” for colleagues, who saw in it a symbol of the sterility of academic practices: on the contrary, Renoir was very fascinated by his style, in which he believed he perceived the beat of life, and he drew an almost carnal pleasure in it (“I secretly enjoyed the beautiful belly of the Source and Madame Rivière’s neck and arms “). By Raffaello Sanzio, a very important influence especially in late maturity, we will talk in the paragraph The aigre style.
In the artistic universe of Renoir, then, a characteristic prominent place belongs to Gustave Courbet. Man animated by a strong determination and by a combative charisma, Courbet not only thematized what until then was considered unworthy of pictorial representation, but he also managed to transfer pieces of matter onto the canvas. His is a heavy, heavy painting, with an all-earth force: the canvases of the master of Ornans, in fact, have their own, powerful physicality, and they consist of a very raw pictorial material in which the colors are rich in thickness and are often applied with spatula strokes, precisely to obtain “concreteness” effects on the canvas. This expressive vigor suggested to Renoir an unknown freedom in the treatment of the pictorial material, which will clearly emerge even when the artist’s artistic research is oriented towards new methodologies.
The painter of joie de vivre
Renoir’s work is based on the most authentic joie de vivre. In his life, in fact, Renoir was animated by a genuine enthusiasm for life, and he never ceased to amaze himself in front of the infinite wonders of creation, fully enjoying its beauty and feeling the spasmodic desire to transfer to the canvas, with a sweet and intense emotional participation, the memory of every visual perception had struck him. To underline how Renoir related to every aspect of life, be it large or small, the critic Piero Adorno proposed the following syllogism: «everything that exists lives, everything that lives is beautiful, everything that is beautiful deserves to be to be painted »(so all that exists is worthy of pictorial representation).
All his paintings, from the first works in Gleyre’s studio to the latest works by Cagnes, actually capture the sweetest and most ephemeral aspects of life, making them with fluid and vibrant brushstrokes and with a soothing and joyful chromatic and luministic texture. “I like those paintings that make me want to go inside to take a tour”: with these words the painter explicitly invites the observers of his paintings to interact with them with fun similar to what he himself had experienced painting them. That of “fun” is one of the key concepts of Renoir’s poetics: in fact, he loved “putting colors on the canvas to have fun”, to the point that probably no other painter had ever felt such an inalienable urgency to paint to express the his feelings («the brush [… Exemplary the answer he gave with youthful sincerity to the master Gleyre, who conceived painting as a rigorous formal exercise, to be performed with seriousness and responsibility and certainly not letting go of casual figures. To the astonished master, who tore him up by reminding him of the dangers of “painting for fun”, he would in fact have replied: “If I am not amused, please believe that I would not paint at all”.
In summary, even his paintings show his overflowing cheerfulness and his welcome towards the world perceived as a pure expression of the joy of life. This is also thanks to a consistent series of important stylistic devices: above all before the turn aigre, his paintings are light and fluffy, imbued with a lively and pulsing light, and they are overwhelmed by the colors with joyful vivacity. Renoir then fragments the light into small patches of color, each of which is deposited on the canvas with a great delicacy of touch, so much so that the whole work seems to vibrate in the eyes of the viewer, and become something clear and tangible, also thanks to the wise agreements between complementary colors (distributed according to a properly impressionist technique).
This creative effervescence addresses many pictorial genres. His work primarily refers to the “heroism of modern life” that Charles Baudelaire had identified as the theme of an art that can be said to be authentic: for this reason, Renoir – as well as his colleagues – understand that to achieve excellent results in “history painting” one must not take refuge hypocritically in the history of past centuries, but rather confront the contemporary era in a spontaneous, fresh but vigorous manner, following the example of the older Édouard Manet. Here is Maria Teresa Benedetti’s comment, significant also for an easier understanding of the relationship between Renoir and the joie de vivre:
“In these years [those of the Impressionist experience, ed.] His feeling is marked by the domestic realism of his generation, the subject of a painting is still fun: romantic themes that propose lovers at a dance or in the garden, genre scenes illustrating pleasant meetings at the Moulin de la Galette, in Bougival, in Chatou make those works descriptive, lovable, popular masterpieces; in them the painting of love coincides with the love of painting and no one like Renoir is able to sing a Paris that industrial civilization is about to destroy »
(Maria Teresa Benedetti)
The style aigre
A drastic stylistic change occurred following the trip to Italy in 1881. Feeling oppressed by the impressionist choice, in fact, Renoir in that year decided to go to the Bel Paese to study carefully the art of the Renaissance masters, on the traces of a pictorial topos borrowed from the revered Ingres. The Italian stay, in fact, in addition to further expanding his figurative horizons, had important consequences on his way of doing painting. To strike him were the murals of Pompeii and, above all, the frescoes “admirable for simplicity and grandeur” of Raphael’s Farnesina, in which he discovered that aesthetic perfection that with the impressionist experience he had not been able to achieve. With melancholy enthusiasm she would confess to her friend Marguerite Charpentier:
«Raphael, who did not paint outdoors, however, had studied the sunlight, because his frescoes are full of it. On the other hand, by dint of looking outside, I ended up no longer seeing the great harmonies, worrying too much about the small details that cloud the sun instead of enhancing it »
If Raphael’s art fascinated Renoir for its quiet size, for the diffused light and for the plastically defined volumes, from Pompeian paintings he derived a taste for those scenes that expertly mix the ideal dimension with the real one, as happens in the frescoes depicting companies heraldic, mythological, amorous and Dionysian and illusionistic architecture that embellished the domus of the Vesuvian city. He says it himself:
«Pompeian paintings are very interesting from every point of view; so I stay in the sun, not so much to make portraits in full sun, but because, warming up and observing intensely, I will acquire, I believe, the grandeur and simplicity of the ancient painters »
At the sight of the Renaissance models Renoir experienced strong spiritual unease, he saw himself stripped of his certainties, even worse, he discovered himself artistically ignorant. Following the reception of Raphael’s frescoes and Pompeian paintings he was in fact convinced that he had never really possessed the pictorial and graphic technique, and that by now he had exhausted the resources offered by the Impressionist technique, especially regarding the incidence of light on nature: “I had reached the extreme point of Impressionism and I had to find that I no longer knew how to paint or draw”, he would have sadly observed in 1883.
To solve this impasse Renoir detached himself from Impressionism and inaugurated his “aigre” or “ingresque” phase. By reconciling the Raphaelesque model with the Ingresian model, known and loved since its inception, Renoir decides to overcome that vibrant instability of the visual perception of an impressionist matrix and to arrive at a more solid and incisive painting. To underline the constructiveness of the forms, in particular, he recovered a clear and precise design, a “taste attentive to the volumes, to the solidity of the contours, to the monumentality of the images, to a progressive chastity of color” (StileArte), in the sign of a less episodic and more systematic synthesis of the pictorial material.
He also abandons the plein air and returns to elaborate his creations in theatelier, this time however assisted by a rich figurative background. For the same process in his work, landscapes are seen more and more sporadically and a taste for human figures develops, especially female nudes. This was a real iconographic constant in its oeuvre – present both in the beginning and during the Impressionist experiments – but which during the aigre phase asserted itself with greater vigor, in the sign of an absolute primacy of the figure, rendered with vivid brushstrokes and delicate, able to accurately capture the joyful mood of the subject and the opulence of his complexion.
Renoir’s paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated color, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects. However, in 1876, a reviewer in Le Figaro wrote “Try to explain to Monsieur Renoir that a woman’s torso is not a mass of decomposing flesh with those purplish green stains that denote a state of complete putrefaction in a corpse” Yet in characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of colour, so that his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.
His initial paintings show the influence of the colorism of Eugène Delacroix and the luminosity of Camille Corot. He also admired the realism of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles theirs in his use of black as a color. Renoir admired Edgar Degas’ sense of movement. Other painters Renoir greatly admired were the 18th-century masters François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
A fine example of Renoir’s early work and evidence of the influence of Courbet’s realism, is Diana, 1867. Ostensibly a mythological subject, the painting is a naturalistic studio work; the figure carefully observed, solidly modeled and superimposed upon a contrived landscape. If the work is a “student” piece, Renoir’s heightened personal response to female sensuality is present. The model was Lise Tréhot, the artist’s mistress at that time, and inspiration for a number of paintings.
In the late 1860s, through the practice of painting light and water en plein air (outdoors), he and his friend Claude Monet discovered that the color of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected color of the objects surrounding them, an effect known today as diffuse reflection. Several pairs of paintings exist in which Renoir and Monet worked side-by-side, depicting the same scenes (La Grenouillère, 1869).
One of the best known Impressionist works is Renoir’s 1876 Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette). The painting depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre close to where he lived. The works of his early maturity were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women. It was a trip to Italy in 1881 when he saw works by Raphael and other Renaissance masters, that convinced him that he was on the wrong path, and for the next several years he painted in a more severe style in an attempt to return to classicism. Concentrating on his drawing and emphasizing the outlines of figures, he painted works such as Blonde Bather (1881 and 1882) and The Large Bathers (1884–87; Philadelphia Museum of Art) during what is sometimes called his “Ingres period”.
After 1890 he changed direction again. To dissolve outlines, as in his earlier work, he returned to thinly brushed color. From this period onward he concentrated on monumental nudes and domestic scenes, fine examples of which are Girls at the Piano, 1892, and Grandes Baigneuses, 1887. The latter painting is the most typical and successful of Renoir’s late, abundantly fleshed nudes.
A prolific artist, he created several thousand paintings. The warm sensuality of Renoir’s style made his paintings some of the most well-known and frequently reproduced works in the history of art. The single largest collection of his works—181 paintings in all—is at the Barnes Foundation, in Philadelphia.
The Turin exhibition is divided into nine sections. The age of La Bohème After admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1862, Renoir met and attended Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille and Claude Monet, with whom he mostly shared painting sessions en plein air in Fontainebleau or Grenouillère in the surroundings of Paris. Some of his portraits of acquaintances and friends are from this period: William Sisley (1864), Frédéric Bazille (1867), Claude Monet (1875), exhibited in this section with two works by Bazille himself, his studio (1870) and a portrait by Renoir himself (1867), and one by Monet, a winter landscape of Honfleur (around 1867). Here also two of Renoir’s first nudes, among the themes most dear to the artist,The boy with the cat (1868) and Femme demi-nue couchée: la rose (around 1872).
“We adore the women of Renoir” (Proust)
You enter the heart of the exhibition with a gallery of wonderful female portraits, where it is really difficult to choose between Madame Darras (around 1868), La liseuse (1874-1876), Young woman with a veil (C. 1870), Madame Georges Charpentier (1876-1877), Femme au jabot blanc (1880), Seated young woman (1909), up to the portrait of Roman Column(1913). Renoir chooses its protagonists from every social background: bourgeois, workers, dancers, all dressed in a special grace and an impalpable beauty that evoke the female models of eighteenth-century art. Renoir can be said to invent the nineteenth century woman, so much so that Proust wrote: “Des femmes passent dans la rue, ce sont des Renoir”.
“The job of landscaper” (Renoir)
The collection of landscape works by Renoir of the Musée d’Orsay is probably the most beautiful in the world. This section presents ten of them, which retrace an extensive chronological period, including the journey to Algiers made by the artist in 1881. Relative to this North African stay we find on display: Banana field, Algerian landscape and The mosque, where Renoir paints sun-kissed palms, private gardens and gardens with an exotic flavor.
The other paintings represent splendid views where the master’s great attraction is perceived for water, greenery and gardens, a continuous source of inspiration, for the perennial growth of the plants and what defined their intrinsic “irregularity”, which he considered sacrosanct with respect to nature tamed by man: Barges on the Seine (1869), The Pear of England (around 1870), The Seine in Argenteuil (1873), The path in the tall grass (1876-1877), The Seine in Champrosay (1876), The railway bridge in Chatou (1881) up to Paesaggio a Cagnes(Circa 1915), painted by the famous “Les Collettes” estate on the French Riviera, where Renoir took refuge at the end of his life to find a mild climate that would cure him from the serious rheumatoid pathology that afflicted him. “The surrounding environment exerts an enormous influence on him – said brother Edmond of Renoir – he lets himself be dragged by the subject and above all by the place where he is.” The artist himself said he liked the paintings “that make me want to walk inside”.
Children, often his children or friends’ children, are very present in Renoir’s work. These nine works on display compete with female portraits in giving us snapshots of childish faces full of poetry: from the beautiful pastel on paper Portrait of a seated brunette girl, with crossed hands (1879), to the painting Fernand Halphen child (1880) in a serious portrait dressed as a sailor, from the delightful Julie Manet (1887) to a tender Maternity (1885), from the Portrait of the son Pierre (1885), as it was said from the GAM collection, to another delicate pastel Portrait de petite fille coiffée d ‘ une charlotte(Around 1900), at the famous Il clown (Portrait of Coco) (1909), of which Claude himself, the son portrayed, will remember the tormented genesis, from the romantic Girl with the straw hat (around 1908) to the enchanting Geneviève Bernheim de Villers (1910).
The “happy search for the modern side” (Zola)
Here we find five works dedicated to a cross-section of modern society and to the new entertainment of Parisians, from dancing to excursions in the countryside: La balançoire (1876) or the swing, where the magnificent figures of the woman, the gardener and the little girl next to the swing stand out in a brightly colored garden. The touches of color spread by small spots make the effect of sunlight filtered through the leaves, creating an atmosphere of chromatic and luminous vibration, which makes it one of the maximum expressions of impressionistic painting en plein air. From this masterpiece, the great writer Emile Zola – who met Renoir in the living room of Madame Charpentier, wife of his publisher – was inspired by a piece of the novel A page of love, set in a spring garden. Another enchanting female portrait on display is Alphonsine Fournaise (1879), while the famous Ballo in Campagna and Ballo in Città (1883) admirably portray two couples in carefree moments of their free time. Le Jeunes filles au piano
The famous Jeunes filles au piano (1892) was the first painting by Renoir to enter the collections of a French museum. Next to it there is another splendid canvas: Yvonne and Christine Lerolle on the piano (around 1897-1898) and two subjects related to music: the famous portrait of Richard Wagner, portrayed in Palermo during a memorable meeting between Renoir and the German composer, and that of Théodore de Banville (both of 1882).
“Beautiful as an array of flowers” (Renoir)
Small section of extraordinary works: Renoir’s bouquets are masterful in technique and colors, it is one of the themes where the artist experiments most. “When I paint flowers – he declared – I boldly experience shades and values without worrying about ruining the whole canvas; I wouldn’t dare do the same with a figure. ” The variety of shades in the colors is truly impressive: Renoir plays with the palette, with soft and delicate strokes, evoking the scents of the flowers which in turn refer to sensations and memories.
“An essential form of dell’arte” (Renoir)
It is a capital section of the exhibition, with fundamental works in Renoir’s career, who had always shown a deep interest in Italian Renaissance art, admiring the works of Raphael, Titian, and Rubens’ Nordic baroque, from which he assimilates the soft and languid forms and a full chromatism, which are part of his stylistic code regarding the way of treating the female figure. “I look at a nude and see myriads of small tints. I need to find out what will make the flesh live and vibrate on the canvas “- said the painter. On display, five spectacular paintings, all painted in the last period of his life, between 1906 and 1917: Femme nue couchée (Gabrielle) (1906),Grand nu (1907), La toilette (Woman combing her hair) (1907-1908), Nude woman seen from behind (1909), Odalisque dormant (1915-1917). And an imposing bronze sculpture, the only plastic work on display, Eau (La Grande Laveuse accroupie) (1917).
The legacy of the Bathers The “closure” of the exhibition is dedicated
to Renoir’s last fundamental masterpiece, The Bathers (1918-1919). The painting is emblematic of the research carried out by the artist at the end of his life. Here he celebrates a timeless nature, from which every reference to the contemporary is banned. Bathers are to be considered Renoir’s pictorial testament. It is in this spirit that his three children donated the painting to the French state in 1923. The two models lying in the foreground and the three bathers against the background of the composition posed in the large garden of olive trees in “Les Collettes”, the estate of the painter in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the South of France. The Mediterranean landscape brings back to the classical Italian and Greek tradition, when “the Earth was the paradise of the gods”. “Here’s what I want to paint,” said Renoir. This idyllic vision is underlined by the sensuality of the models, by the richness of the colors and the fullness of the forms. These figures also owe much to the nudes of Titian and Rubens, much admired by Renoir. They convey a pleasure of painting that the painter’s illness and suffering at the end of his life have not defeated.
The artist’s work tools are also on display: palette, color box, brushes, inseparable tools of the great master. Until the last he had worked on his Bathers, having his brushes tied to his fingers now deformed by rheumatoid arthritis. Renoir died on December 3, 1919, killed by a lung infection; the evening before dying he pronounces these words: “Maybe now I begin to understand something”. After less than two months Modigliani also dies, whom Renoir often received in his studio. The world of art thus loses two extraordinary interpreters.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication published by Skira which presents, in addition to the reproductions of the works on display, several critical contributions. In particular, Sylvie Patry explores the ways in which French museum institutions have accepted and acquired Renoir’s work over time. Riccardo Passoni’s contribution is instead dedicated to the presence of Renoir at the 1910 Venice Biennale – where thirty-seven of his works were exhibited – and the influence that this participation had on some great Italian artists such as Boccioni, Carrà, Soffici, Morandi and De Chirico, which around 1930 stylistically linked to the poetry of the great French master.
Another text, edited by Augustin De Butler, is intended instead to retrace the artist’s interest in Italian art during his trip to our country, with particular reference to his stay in Venice in 1881. Representing beauty, surprising with light and color, portraying the life of his own era with a delicate realism, are key elements of Renoir’s pictorial philosophy, which still make it one of the most loved painters by the public. The Turin exhibition aims to be a tribute to his art and an unrepeatable opportunity to retrace his artistic and human history, and allows you to admire extraordinary works, most of which have never been exhibited in Italy.
Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Turin
The Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Turin is located in via Magenta 31 in Turin, Italy. It was founded around 1891 – 95. It houses the permanent artistic collections of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is part of the Torino Musei Foundation, which also includes the MAO (Oriental Art Museum), Palazzo Madama and Casaforte degli Acaja (Civic Museum of Ancient Art), the medieval village and fortress.
GAM – the Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Arts – is Italy’s oldest modern art museum. Since opening to the public in 1863 numerous masterpieces has been added to its collections over time. At present, GAM’s collections comprise over 47,000 works, ranging from paintings and sculptures to installations and photographic art, as well as a rich collection of drawings and engravings, and one of the largest artist’s film and video collections in Europe.
On the strength of this heritage, GAM continues to implement its original commitment to contemporary research by constantly linking its historical works with today’s cultural debate and ensuring that the exhibition programme is closely correlated with the collections. Works from the collections are exhibited in thematic groupings that change over time, ensuring that visitors always see the collections from a new angle and can make a fresh analysis of the Gallery’s masterpieces.
Works by both the leading Italian nineteenth-century artists, like Fontanesi, Fattori, Pellizza da Volpedo and Medardo Rosso, and the twentieth-century masters, including Morandi, Casorati, Martini and De Pisis, have reacquired their capacity to speak to the present, and to show off all their complexity on a par with works from the historic international avant-gardes, outstanding examples of which are also in the collection: from Max Ernst to Paul Klee and Picabia, as well as works by the new post-war avant-garde movements, with one of the largest collections of Arte Povera – including works by Paolini, Boetti, Anselmo, Zorio, Penone and Pistoletto – but also the current artistic output to which GAM dedicates extensive exhibition space.