Renoir

Renoir

Renoir

Renoir

Excerpt

THE XIXth century was a prey to restlessness. It was obsessed with the idea of progress, consumed by superhuman and even inhuman desires, pregnant with many possibilities, swayed between Romanticism and Classicism. As a result it lost contact first with mankind and then with Nature itself, which tended to dematerialize as if at the touch of a magician's wand. In the closing years of this despairing century -- incapable, between the trembling movements which characterized its senility, of doing more than include each passing second in its mirages and illusions -- Renoir, despite his changes of style, seems to express an untimely sense of continuity. He was as continuous as life itself, which, full of assurance and certain of its destiny, never deviates a hair's breadth from its path and is deaf to daily anecdotes. He remained invariably wise, modest, discreet, and full of joy; he restored, amidst days of defeat and decadence, the sweetness and joy of existence. He enabled that century -- torn between the extremes of tragedy and thoughtlessness, between excesses of the heart and unfeelingness of the soul, between the scaffold, grape-shot, and deadly delight -- to know at long last the richest and most tender of all feelings : the love of life.

It was a love so strong that Renoir might have lived in any age whatsoever. The moment did not exist in his eyes. Renoir displayed that indifference which children have towards anything that is not of their own invention : their dreams played in grim earnest. This was not innocence on his part, for Renoir was a sinner like other men; and on no account would he make himself conspicuous by any form of abnormal virginity. He had committed the carnal fault as others had done, yet he lived as though that fault had never been consummated, as though sentence for the crime had never been passed. The state of sin being the state of nature, it became in his eyes the primary state, the state of Truth; and since Renoir could conceive only what is, the commonplace became his ideal; what was habitual became identical with what was original. Nothing displays more banality than Renoir's work, but with it is freshness, because to him each day was as it were a first day, and his eye like his sensibility was never the worse for wear. Unknown to him was that failing of a man who begins to be worn out through contact with things and who can no longer admire because habit has blunted both his heart and his feelings. To Renoir everything was an object and a subject of wonder; he relearned for our sake the invincible power of amazement face to face with the world, Nature, and that every-day marvel -- the whole of creation. It was that amazement which enabled him to perceive the beauty of the commonplace, the grandeur of what was of daily occurrence, and that rarity which can be distinguished underneath vulgarity. Useless were canons and codes : beauty was to be found wherever there was a product of Nature, above all a manifestation of life. It was visible in what was elementary, in instinct, in fecundity; and Renoir had no need to wave, as though they were protective flags, the names of Paganism or Pantheism, in order to express his wholly simple love of life.

Renoir painted neither rudely nor wildly; nor did he paint as the bird sings, or as the apple- tree bears its fruit. His thoughts remained neither primitive nor stagnant. Renoir's life -- like . . .

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