Tuesday, February 15, 2011

All about Renoir

Random Song of the Day: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (Noisa Remix) 
by Skrillex

Who was Pierre-Auguste Renoir?  He was a notable impressionistic painter from the mid-nineteenth century, whose primary subject matter included beautiful women and peaceful scenes. An example of his style includes:  

Bal du moulin de la Galette 1876

Renoir, in addition to painting also dabbled in printmaking.  In fact our collection even has a print by Renoir.
Head of a Little "Boy/ Girl"

This is a lithograph, which is a type of print known as a planographic print, or a print on a flat surface. (It means that a print comes from using a surface that is not relief or incised.) This would be the most familiar process for painters and drawers. It involves a process of drawing with a greasy/waxy surface (for instance a litho crayon) on a flat surface, traditionally stone or metal plates. Next a layer of gum arabic, a hydrophilic surface, is coated on the entire surface and a chemical is next used to dissolve wax leaving a layer of gum arabic left in the shape of the drawn image.  The ink will then stick only to the stone and not to the gum arabic allowing you to print your design on a paper surface. 
 Detail of Top Left

Detail of Bottom Center 
For this work itself, I’ve noticed that it has a few strange white markings.  This might be because of a chemical reaction of too much starch in the paper.  This could also come from the reaction of the print paper with the non-acid free paper of the storage. Storage for this work would be best to lie flat, dry and cool as possible.  For moisture woill create cockling or wrinkling.  This work did not appear to have any cockling, however, it would appear to need a new matting and frame to prevent further chemical decay.     
Roger Passeron comments that Renior only came late into the medium during a time when prints were seen. For it was by 1890s that prints back in fashion with which  “some energetic and devoted publishers with a love of good prints, who had taste and enterprise enough to promote and orient the output of the artists concerned, most of them painters, some of whom had never done an etching or a lithograph” (116).
Although by the time that Renoir had started to show an an interest in printmaking others artists, such as Mary Cassatt and Toulouse-Lautrec, were already creating and showing works that mastered the techniques of prints in color.  Renoir had come to printmaking late in comparison to his fellows, and really didn’t take to the medium as his counterparts. In fact Passeron mentions that “unlike Degas, Pissarro and Mary Cassatt, Renoir never acquired a press and did not attend to the printings of his own etching.  He only worked occasionally on copper and felt more at home drawing on the stone” (116). Many of his prints depict nudes that are strongly influenced by both Japanese art and his own Ingresque Period. 
Seated Bather

He primarily worked with soft-ground medium, allows the artist to work with a drawing pencil on a sheet of paper on a grounded copper plate.
Today we still consider Renoir as more of a painter over a printmaker. As described by Passeron, “we do find in some his prints that rare seductiveness, that happy plenitude, that intense love of light and the female form with characterizes his works as a painter” (132). Renoir was never was completely comfortable with the media.  However, many of his prints are considered as incredible high quality and are still pursued alongside his paintings.

Child with a Biscuit

Passeron, Roger. Impressionist Prints. Secaucus, New Jersey: Wellfleet Press, 1974.
Interview with Professor Graham about lithography

 Image Sources
Musée d’Orsay
My own photo records

1 comment:

  1. Your explanation of litho is very thorough and in plain enough terms for a wide audience. I particularly appreciate your photographs of the Renoir from our collection. I wonder if the white could be chalk markings? Or, do they appear to be hazardous/resultant from damage? Perhaps in your condition report, you can note a few possible suggested treatments for this piece? Here, a suggestion could be to remove from frame and re-frame with acid free mat and backing. This wouldn't treat the white marks, necessarily, but would prevent further damage, at a low cost. What other suggestions do you have for this, and other, works?

    I look forward to hearing more.