On this blog I want to show you that art is approachable, that a painting doesn’t have to be seen as a problem to be solved – “How does the painter lead the eye?” “What does this say about society?” – but that it can be enjoyed the way you enjoy anything you look at, like trees or people or films or photographs.
Today let’s look at “Portrait of Charles and Georges Durand-Ruel”, painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1882.
I like Renoir, and this painting in particular, because his pictures are half-classical, half-new. If you saw this painting from a distance, it would probably look like a typical old painting to you, because it’s got people in it rather than shapes, and the way it’s “framed” – in the film sense – is not very unusual.
But when you get up close, you see that the background is all done in squashes and dashes of paint; you see that although the hair of the men’s heads is complex with many colors, Renoir has not painted individual hairs but has indicated individual hairs by using all those many colors to suggest light falling over an uneven, and slightly reflective, surface.
Most importantly, maybe, when you get up close you see the way the men are dressed. How cool to see what looks like an old fashioned painting, only to realize that its subjects are wearing clothes you could pretty much wear today!
What do you think of this picture by Renoir?