Excerpt from “Renoir, My Father” by Jean Renoir ~~Monet~~

Around 1877, when a group of artists including Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Morisot, Pissarro, Degas and Cezanne were receiving harsh criticism for their works, Jean Renoir shares his father’s story…
Fortunately, there was Monet. He rose to the occasion immediately, in an amazing manner. He refused to give in to the first setback – or to subsequent ones. He proposed a plan so utterly fantastic that my father laughed whenever he thought about it, even forty years later. Monet’s landscape ‘Impression’ had been jeered at because ‘no one could see anything in it.’ Monet shrugged his shoulders haughtily. ‘Poor blind idiots. They want to see everything clearly, even through the fog!’ …
The general lack of understanding gave Monet an irresistible desire to do a painting still more foggy.
One day he said to Renoir triumphantly:
‘I’ve got it! The Gare Saint-Lazare! I’ll show it just as the trains are starting, with smoke from the engines so thick you can hardly see a thing. It’s a fascinating sight, a regular dream-world.’
He did not, of course, intend to paint it from memory. He would paint it in situ so as to capture the play of sunlight on the steam rising from the locomotives. ‘I’ll get them to delay the train for Rouen half an hour. The light will be better then.’
‘You’re mad,’ said Renoir…
He put on his best clothes, ruffled the lace at his wrists, and twirling his gold-headed cane went off to the offices of the Western Railway, where he sent in his card to the Director. The usher, overawed, immediately showed him in. The Director graciously asked Monet to be seated. His visitor introduced himself modestly as ‘the painter, Claude Monet’. The Head of the Company knew nothing about painting, but did not quite dare to admit it. Monet allowed his host to flounder about for a moment, then deigned to announce the purpose of his visit. ‘I have decided to paint your station. For some time I’ve been hesitating between your station and the Gare du Nord, but I think that yours has more character.’ He was given permission to do what he wanted. The trains were all halted; the platforms were cleared; the engines were crammed with coal so as to give out all the smoke that Monet desired. Monet established himself in the station as a tyrant and painted amid respectful awe. He finally departed with a half-dozen or so pictures, while the entire personnel, the Director of the Company at their head, bowed him out.
Renoir concluded: ‘I wouldn’t have dared paint even in the front window of the corner grocer!’

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1 Comment

Filed under Art, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “Renoir, My Father” by Jean Renoir ~~Monet~~

  1. Claude Monet was born in Paris on 14 November 1840. He died in Giverny on 5 December 1926, aged 86 years.
    Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges on 24 February 1841. He died in Cagnes-sur-Mer on 3 December 1919, aged 78 years.
    In 1877, when this story relates they were 37 and 36 years old respectively.

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