A family affair

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-25 17:53:01

Exhibition features works of impressionist master Renoir and his photographer great-grandson

There's good news for art lovers around town. After holding a Claude Monet exhibition last year, Tix-Media is hosting another exhibition of the work of an impressionist master, Pierre-Auguste Renior.

"Monet was one year older than Renoir and they were good friends," said Xie Dingwei, general manager of Shanghai Tix-Media.

"They got acquainted with each other when they started to learn to paint. They would go out and sketch at the same place along the river. Later their styles grew apart, with Monet painting more scenery and Renoir painting more female bodies."

Xie said that it took one and a half years to collect all of the works in the exhibition.

The paintings are on loan from 14 museums in Europe and North America.

The exhibition brings together 44 original works from different periods of Renoir's career. They include oil paintings, drawings and one bronze sculpture.

Famous paintings like Portrait of the Poet Alice Vallière Merzbach, After the Bath, and The Concert are in the exhibition.

Image of women

The female form is one recurring theme in Renoir's paintings. He always puts women in elegant poses with an aura of fantasy. They are sensual, confident and joyful on his canvas.

Renoir often paints them in domestic interiors. We see them sewing, reading, nursing or playing with children. They look lush and voluptuous with their thick-fleshed figures, glossy skin, curly hair and rosy cheeks.

In Portrait of the Poet Alice Vallière Merzbach (above), the setting is rich, with a red carpet, a potted flower on a shelf and a luxurious armchair.

A pretty, elegant woman sits on the chair leaning against a velvet purple cushion, her smooth, pink hands resting on the armrest. A soft diaphanous dress draped around her is painted in gray and white with elaborate brush strokes.

She has dark hair, pretty pink cheeks and porcelain-smooth skin. From afar, she looks lost in her own thoughts.

Later in Renoir's career, the women in his paintings are often naked in a natural setting. In After the Bath (below), the model is sitting on a stump and drying herself with a towel in the depth of a bush.

In the painting, Renoir created an intimate space for the women, which is untouched by the industrialized world of Renoir's times. They are free and uninhibited in nature.

Two Renoirs

The exhibition also includes photos taken by Renoir's great-grandson, the photographer Jacques Renoir.

"We thought it could be interesting to have some contemporary elements. You have the works from a hundred years past, it is like a mirror of hundred years," the exhibition's curator Teit Ritzau told the Global Times.

"It turns out that it is the first time ever that Jacques Renoir and his great-grandfather's work are exhibited together. If you look at Jacques he looks like his great-grandfather. It's the same face. It's much more than the art."

Jacques picked up painting when he was a child. "It wasn't until I was 12 years old that I realized I would not surpass my great-grandfather. It seems I didn't inherit the gene for painting. I gave it up as a career and worked as a professional photographer," Jacques Renoir told the Global Times.

The photos on the show are taken in Renoir's family estate, Les Collettes.

Jacques said his great-grandfather developed rheumatoid arthritis at age 55.

A photo of Renoir in his late years Photos: Qi Xijia/GT and courtesy of Tix-Media

"In his late years his joints were so distorted by the rheumatoid arthritis that he needed someone to insert the brush between his fingers," Jacques said.

 Following doctor's advice, Renoir purchased Les Collettes in the south of France, where he lived with his wife Aline and their three sons. Renoir used to sketch on the hills near the estate and draw the olive trees.

Jacques was born in this estate in 1942. He spent his youth there. In 2010, he returned to create a series of photographs entitled Nude with Olive Tree as a tribute to his great-grandfather.

"When I was a boy I used to climb on these trees and build treehouses; however, when I see these trees again when I come back, I see them as statues," Jacques said.

These photos feature naked women and olive trees, a recurring theme in later paintings of the elder Renoir.

The photos dramatically juxtapose the white delicate skin of the young women and the rough, twisted bark of the olive trees, casting a strong contrast between the feminine curves of the body and the masculine lines of the trees.

In his photos Jacques has naked women wrapped by the twisting trunks as if caressed by Renoir's crippled hand.

The contrast between the roughness and smoothness forced the viewers to think about the torture and pain of the aged painter while he was creating the beautiful images.

"Personally I am deeply moved and excited to see the original works of my great-grandfather. I haven't seen some of them before. I am also glad to have my photos exhibited next to his paintings. It is a conversation across the century," Jacques said.

Date: Until March 6, 11 am to 7 pm

Venue: Shanghai Exhibition Center

Address: 1000 Yan'an Road Middle 延安中路1000号

Admission: 100 yuan ($15.65) to 120 yuan

Call 6440-0379 for details

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, About Town

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