• Under the Arbor at the Moulin de la Galette

Under the Arbor at the Moulin de la Galette

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Under the Arbor at the Moulin de la Galette
Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

In 1873 Renoir met the young art dealer Durand-Ruel, who was courageously supporting the new tendencies in painting. In 1874, rejected by the Salon again, he organized the Societe Anonyme Cooperative with other artists and exhibited several paintings, including The Box , in the studio of the pho-tographer Nadar: it was on this occasion that the name Impressionists was coined from the derogatory comments of a critic. Around 1880 the Impres-sionist movement entered a phase of profound disorientation. Renoir felt that he had exploited its possibilities to the full: "I had wrung Impressionism dry, and I finally came to the conclusion that I knew neither how to paint nor how to draw. In a word, Impressionism was a blind alley, as far as I was concerned." In 1881 he made two journeys. "In Algiers I discovered white," he would write. Then he set off for Italy with Mine Charigot , his model and future wife, prompted by the need to look at the pictures under the skies that had housed their authors. In Venice he admired Titian, at Pompeii the sense of the timeless character of everyday life that emerges from antiquity, in Rome Raphael. Renoir was now in search of classical solidity. His out-lines grew sharper, his brushwork smoother: "I am not satisfied and erase, go on erasing. I hope this mania will pass." Next he went to Spain, to see the work of Velazquez, and then to London, Dresden and the Netherlands, in the footsteps of the masters of the past. Meanwhile his second son Jean, who would go on to become a famous film director, was born in 1894. In 1897 he broke his arm in a fall from a bicycle: the strong rheumatic pains that resulted from this injury would degenerate into rheumatoid arthritis and confine him, from 1911 onwards, to a wheelchair. His desire to paint stayed with him to the end. His arm was sound and his eyesight keen, but his skin was delicate and could be injured by the slightest contact: to over-come the problem he had a thin piece of canvas placed in the palm of his hand and grasped the brush with his numb fingers. In Paris, in 1919, the Louvre was opened specially so that he could visit it by himself. Renoir moved slowly through the rooms on his "litter," and asked his bearers to stop in front of Veronese's Marriage at Cana (The Marriage at Cana 1, The Marriage at Cana 2 ). He died the same year. His last words were "I think I am beginning to understand something about it."

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