Renoir: Father and Son: Painting and Cinema by Sylvie Patry

Review published on October 12, 2018.

I admit that I am rather out of step with art aficionados and the culture vultures in that I tend not follow fashionable opinions as to what is in and what is out. In recent years Renoir has been out, not popular with the fashionable set, but I have always loved his work, the colour palette and his subjects. How I would have loved to have been in New York for a recent exhibition and retrospective on Renoir: Father and Son. Painting and Cinema.

This book is the exhibition catalogue, and besides being beautiful it is packed with pictures of both Pierre-Auguste and Jean Renoir. Both masters of their art form, one in painting and one in film. This book shows the paradoxically relationship between art and film, between father and son.

The book examines how Jean Renoir discovered his own artistic voice while examining and questioning his father’s paintings. The book shows in a new light the relationship between father and son, how the son was the subject of his father’s art while never appearing on film with or by his son. Jean Renoir can never be accused of not loving his father, as one must remember that it took twenty-five years for him to write his father’s biography. That biography still the most authoritative and best work.

Pierre-Auguste’s paintings of Jean are present and just as beautiful as if you could view then in a gallery. One of my favourite pictures is reproduced where one-year old Jean is being entertained by Renoir’s housekeeper, Gabrielle, who is trying to entertain him with toys. This book once again brings to life Renoir’s inner vision of life. Which Jean would later try and reproduce on screen.

At the same time, one should never dismiss the work of Jean, whom Orson Welles described as “the greatest of all directors”, seeing and having his worked at explained is so important.

What this exhibition catalogue does so well is explain the relationship between the father and son, and how this affected the work of both. That their understanding and vision of the world was as they portrayed in their work. Renoir was an anti-modernist painter who foresaw clashes between man and his creation as inevitable and Jean would in later life reproduce this clash on screen and I would think of his film Picnic in the Grass.

This is a beautiful, passionate book, that art and film loves must have and need to further their understanding of the Renoirs.

Paul Diggett 5/5

Renoir: Father and Son: Painting and Cinema by Sylvie Patry
Flammarion 9782080203809 hbk Oct 2018

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