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Archive for April, 2013

An artist, and a true lover of art, Renoir believed, has to be a sensualist.

I have friend, he wrote.

Image

A Venus by Bouguereau (detail)

This friend, he says, was one of the wealthiest men in Paris, and he became the proud owner of a remarkable painting, which he showed off at various parties and soirees. In my mind this became a picture by Bouguereau, for no reason other than that at the time Bouguereau was the most admired artist in France, and that if you were going to parade your status, this was the perfect artist.

Bouguereau was in love with women and with the human form. His treament of skin was like living silk and his brushwork like caresses. His paintings were brought to the enamel finish of the old masters, glowing like porcelain.

Proud as he was, and as often as he boasted to Renoir about it, this wealthy man never really got much joy from his painting. It was a possession, no more.

And then one day, Renoir recounts, as he was working in his studio, his friend burst in, tears in his eyes.

“What is wrong? What has happened?” Renoir asked.

“I have just seen, for the first time, my precious painting.”

My friend, Renoir says, had just become a sensualist.

It is not the female form, nor the texture of skin, but the quality of the paint itself, the “matiĆ©re”, that makes our skin tingle.

 

 

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