RENOIR From the Collections of the Musée d’Orsay and of the Musée de l’Orangerie


from 23 October 2013 to 23 February 2014
The City of Turin, GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino, and Skira Editore present:
RENOIR From the Collections of the Musée d’Orsay and of the Musée de l’Orangerie  

GAM – Via Magenta 31, Turin
23 October 2013 to 23 February 2014
 

A splendid exhibition devoted to the great French artist, with masterpieces from the collections of the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
 
The event continues the cooperation between the City of Turin, the Musée d’Orsay and Skira Editore, so keenly championed by the Mayor, Piero Fassino, which was launched in 2012 with the great Degas exhibition.  
This year, GAM is presenting a stunning new display devoted to Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), one of the leading artists, with Manet, Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley and Cézanne, from the 1870s to the first two decades of the twentieth century, in the great age of French Impressionism.  
An important agreement between GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Torino, Fondazione Torino Musei, Skira Editore and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris– with Danilo Eccher, Director of GAM, Massimo Vitta Zelman, Chairman of Skira, and Guy Cogeval, President of the Musée d’Orsay and of the Orangerie – has made it possible to create a systematic project of huge value, bringing to Turin a magnificent exhibition which is unparalleled in terms of the quality of the works on show.  
The Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie are home to the world’s most complete collection of works by Renoir. They have accepted to deprive themselves of about sixty masterpieces for four months in order to put on an extraordinary exhibition that sheds light on the entire artistic career of this great master of painting. Here we see the most significant moments and turning points which, from his earliest years, led the artist to a gradual shift away from Impressionism towards the end of his career.  
The exhibition is curated by Sylvie Patry, Chief Curator of the Musée d’Orsay and a great expert on Renoir, and by Riccardo Passoni, Vice Director of GAM di Torino. Skira, in close cooperation with the Fondazione Torino Musei, is producing the exhibition, attending to its organisational and promotional aspects and publishing the catalogue.  
The exhibition will be held in the Exhibition Area on the first floor of GAM, which also houses the permanent collection, now rearranged into four thematic sections. This means that also from the point of view of the display installation, the exhibition will have all the scope, ease and amenity of a great international event. One work from the GAM collection will also be on show: the Portrait of the Artist’s Son Pierre (1885), which was purchased through the good offices of Lionello Venturi. 

The exhibition takes us through the complex development of Renoir’s artistic career. In over half a century he produced more than five thousand paintings and a huge number of drawings and watercolours, and this show illustrates the great variety and quality of his painting technique and the many subjects he approached.  
During the course of his life, Renoir experimented with en plein air painting together with his friend and colleague Monet, while continuing to create works in his studio. He also painted portraits on commission and, in doing so, built up a close circle of admirers and patrons. The success he achieved during his lifetime is illustrated by the fact that his Madame Charpentier and Her Children (purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1907) was sold for the highest price paid in those years for a painting. He was a personal friend of Impressionists – including Monet, Cézanne, Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Sisley and Caillebotte, with whom he discussed painting and organised exhibitions - and encouraged other great artists like Matisse, Bonnard and Maurice Denis. And yet real fame and recognition by his contemporaries only came in the early years of the twentieth century. Today he is considered to be one of the greatest masters of his age. The Turin exhibition consists of nine sections.
The Age of the Bohème After entering the École des Beaux-Arts in 1862, Renoir met and made friends with Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille and Claude Monet, with whom he went on en-plein-air painting outings to Fontainebleau and the Grenouillère near Paris. A number of portraits of friends and acquaintances date from this period, including William Sisley (1864), Frédéric Bazille (1867), and Claude Monet (1875), which are on display in this section together with two works by Bazille – one of his studio (1870) and a portrait of Renoir himself (1867) – and a winter landscape in Honfleur by Monet (about 1867). Here we also find two of Renoir’s first nudes, which were one of his favourite subjects, Young Boy with a Cat (1868) and Femme demi-nue couchée: la rose (about 1872).
Nous adorons les femmes de Renoir” (Proust) We now enter into the heart of the exhibition with a gallery of wonderful female portraits, in which it is really hard to choose between Madame Darras (about 1868), La liseuse (1874-1876), Young Woman with a Veil (about 1870), Madame Georges Charpentier (1876-1877), Femme au jabot blanc (1880), Young Woman Seated (1909), and the portrait of Colonna Romano (1913). Renoir chose sitters of all social classes: the bourgeoisie, workers and ballerinas, all suffused with ethereal gracefulness and impalpable beauty, recalling female models of eighteenth-century art. It could be said that Renoir invented the nineteenth-century woman, and indeed Proust wrote: “Des femmes passent dans la rue, […] ce sont des Renoir”.
The “recherche heureuse du côté moderne” (Zola) Here five works portray a cross-section of modern society and the new amusements enjoyed by Parisians, from dancing to country outings, as in the incomparable La balançoire (The Swing, 1876), in which the magnificent figures of the woman, the gardener and the little girl next to the swing stand out against a brightly coloured garden. The touches of colour applied in little patches convey the effect of sunlight filtering through the leaves, creating a vibrant atmosphere of chromatic and luminous reverberations, making this one of the loftiest expressions of Impressionist en plein air painting. The great writer Emile Zola, who used to meet Renoir at the salon of Madame Charpentier, his publisher’s wife, drew inspiration from this masterpiece for a passage in his novel Une page d’amour, which is set in a springtime garden. Another enchanting female portrait is that of Alphonsine Fournaise (1879), while the famous Country Dance and City Dance (1883) exquisitely portray two couples enjoying carefree moments.
“Le métier de paysagiste” (Renoir)
The Musée d’Orsay collection of Renoir’s landscapes is probably the most beautiful in the world. This section presents ten works made over a long period of time, including the artist’s trip to Algiers in 1881. From this stay in northern Africa we find The Field of Banana Trees, Algerian Landscape and The Mosque, in which Renoir paints sun-drenched palm trees, private gardens and vegetable gardens with an exotic touch. The other paintings are of splendid views which reveal the great master’s love of water, plants and gardens. In his art he always drew inspiration from the perennial growth of plants and what he termed their intrinsic “irregularity”, which he considered a sacred aspect of nature dominated by man. Here we see Barges on the Seine (1869), The English Pear Tree (about 1870), The Seine at Argenteuil (1873), The Path Through Tall Grass (1876-1877), The Seine at Champrosay (1876), The Railway Bridge at Chatou (1881) through to the Landscape at Cagnes (about 1915), painted on the famous Les Collettes estate on the Côte d’Azur, where Renoir sought refuge at the end of his life, in search of a mild climate which might cure his rheumatoid disease. “The surroundings exert an enormous influence on him,” Renoir’s brother Edmond would say, “He lets himself be swept away by the subject and especially by the place he is in.” The artist himself said he appreciated paintings “that make me want to walk into them”.
Childhood Children, often his own or those of friends, are very much present in Renoir’s art. These nine works compete with his female portraits and, like snapshots, show us children’s faces filled with poetry: from the ravishing pastel on paper Portrait of a Seated Brunette Girl with Hands Crossed (1879), to the painting of Fernand Halphen as a Boy (1880) dressed as a little sailor in a serious-looking portrait, to the enchanting Julie Manet (1887) and a tender Maternity (1885). Then there is the Portrait of the Artist’s Son Pierre (1885), which as we have seen is from the GAM collection, and the Portrait de petite fille coiffée d’une charlotte (about 1900) and the universally renowned The Clown (Portrait of Coco) (1909), of which Renoir’s son Claude, the sitter, would recall its troubled making, the romantic Girl in a Straw Hat (about 1908) and the delightful Geneviève Bernheim de Villers (1910).   The Jeunes filles au piano The world-famous masterpiece Jeunes filles au piano (1892) was the first painting by Renoir to enter the collection of a French museum. Next to it we see another splendid work: Yvonne and Christine Lerolle at the Piano (about 1897-1898) and two subjects linked to the world of music: the famous portrait of the composer Richard Wagner in Palermo, during a memorable encounter with Renoir, and that of Théodore de Banville (both 1882).  
“Beau comme un tableau de fleurs” (Renoir)
A small section of stunning works: Renoir’s bouquets are superb in terms of both technique and colour, and indeed this was one of the themes he experimented with most. “When I paint out of doors”, he said, “I experiment boldly with tones and values, without worrying about ruining the whole canvas. I would never dare do that with a figure.” The variety of nuances in the colours is quite amazing: Renoir plays with the palette, using soft, delicate brushstrokes, conjuring up the scents of flowers, which in turn bring back memories and sensations.  
“Le nu, forme indispensable de l’art” (Renoir) This is a key section of the exhibition, with works that are crucial for Renoir’s career. He always showed a keen interest in Italian Renaissance art and admired the works of Raphael, Titian and Rubens’s northern Baroque, from which he took the soft, languid forms and full use of colour, making it a characteristic feature of his female figures. “I look at a nude and see countless tiny tints. I need to find the ones that will make the flesh come alive and vibrate on the canvas”, he said. In the exhibition we see five spectacular paintings, all from the closing period of his life, between 1907 and 1917: Femme nue couchée (Gabrielle) (1906), Grand nu (1907), La toilette (Woman Combing Her Hair) (1907-1908), Nude Woman, Seen from Behind (1909), Odalisque dormant (1915-1917). There is also a majestic bronze, the only sculpture in the exhibition, Eau (La Grande Laveuse accroupie) (1917). 
The legacy of the Bathers Another crucial masterpiece by Renoir, The Bathers (1918-1919), brings the exhibition to an end. This painting is a perfect example of his artistic experimentation towards the end of his life. It celebrates timeless nature, from which all contemporary allusion is banished. The Bathers can be considered as Renoir’s pictorial testament and it was with this in mind that his three children donated the painting to the French state in 1923. The two models reclining in the foreground and the three bathers behind are in the large olive orchard at Les Collettes, the painter’s estate in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the South of France. The Mediterranean landscape harks back to the classic traditions of Italy and Greece, when “the Earth was the paradise of the gods”. “This is what I want to paint”, Renoir used to say. This idyllic vision is emphasised by the sensuality of the models, by the wealth of colours and the fullness of the forms. These figures also owe much to the nudes of Titian and Rubens, whom Renoir greatly admired. They fully reveal the pleasure he found in painting, which was never overcome by the illness and pain he suffered at the end of his life.  
The exhibition also includes the great master’s work tools: the palette, box of colours and brushes that he always kept to hand. Right to the very end he worked on his Bathers, having his brushes tied onto his fingers, now deformed by rheumatoid arthritis. Renoir died on 3 December 1919, struck down by a lung infection. The evening before he died, his words were: “I think I’m beginning to understand something.” Not even two months later, also Modigliani - whom Renoir often received in his studio - was dead. The world of art thus lost two of its finest exponents.  

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Skira, with illustrations of the works on display as well as a number of critical essays. In particular, Sylvie Patry looks at Renoir’s long, complex stylistic development. Riccardo Passoni, on the other hand, examines Renoir’s participation in the Venice Biennale in 1910, where he exhibited thirty-seven of his works, and how this influenced some great Italian artists such as Boccioni, Carrà, Soffici, Morandi and de Chirico, whose style moved towards Renoir’s artistic vision in about 1930. Another contribution, by Augustin De Butler, retraces the artist’s interest in Italian art during his journey through the country.   Portraying beauty, taking by surprise with light and colour and depicting the life of his own times with delicate realism are key to Renoir’s pictorial philosophy, which still today make him one of the world’s best-loved painters. The Turin exhibition pays tribute to his creativity and provides a unique opportunity to retrace his art and life, allowing us to admire some extraordinary works, most of which have never been seen before in Italy.    

GAM – Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

Via Magenta 31 – Torino  
INFO: Switchboard, tel. +39-0114429518
Secretary’s office, tel. +39-0114429595 e-mail gam@fondazionetorinomusei.it
website www.gamtorino.it  
Opening hours: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun 10 a.m.-7.30 p.m. Thu 10 a.m.-10.30 p.m., closed Mondays Admission: exhibition only: €12 full, €9 reduced; exhibition and collections: €15 full, €11 reduced