Published: December 11, 2001
ATLANTA, GA. – Five rarely loaned masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) are coming to the High Museum of Art from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., January 10 to February 24.
“: Five Great Paintings from the Clark Institute” features a self-portrait and four stunning paintings of women.
The centerpiece of this exhibition is Renoir’s “At the Concert” (1880), on loan from the Clark for the first time in more than ten years. Renoir often painting scenes of men and women at theatrical and musical events and “At the Concert” is considered one of the most significant of these works.
Like Degas and Cassatt, Renoir was more intrigued by the audience than the performance, and he captures the freshness and excrdf_Descriptionent of these two young women as they are presented to late Nineteenth Century Parisian society.
The painting also demonstrates Renoir’s remarkable abilities as a colorist: his layered veils of transparent color create delicate, shimmering surfaces. The other four paintings on view in “” will be “Madame Claude Monet Reading” (circa 1872), “Self-Portrait” (1875), “A Girl with a Fan” (1881) and “Marie Thérèse Durand-Ruel Sewing (1882).
Located in a bucolic college community in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, the Clark Art Institute is not only an art museum but one of the country’s foremost centers for research, discussion and higher education in the visual arts. The institute was founded by Robert Sterling Clark (1877-1956), one of the heirs of the Singer Sewing Machine fortune.
Raised in New York, Clark inherited a passion for art collecting from his parents. In 1911 he settled in Paris where he soon met Francine, a member of the acting company at the Comedie-Française, France’s most prestigious theater.
Francine was already immersed in the arts culture of Paris, and almost immediately exerted a noticeable influence on Sterling’s collecting habits, leaving some to spec-ulate that it was she who actually had the stronger opinions about art. The couple was married in 1919 and returned to New York in the early 1920s.
Clark bought his first Renoir, “A Girl Crocheting” (circa 1875), in 1916. A keen follower of the stock market, Clark believed that the Old Master market had begun to show signs of slowing, and that the Impressionists were a relative bargain. At the time, Renoir was the most popular of the Impressionists and soon became Clark’s passion.
He amassed a collection of 38 Renoirs in the first half of the Twentieth Century, all but a few painted before 1885. Clark had a special affinity for Renoir’s depiction of women and is famous for saying, “I would much rather live with 20 Renoirs than with 20 Rembrandts!”
While Clark had neither the largest Renoir collection in America, nor did he own the single most important work (“Luncheon of the Boating Party,” 1880-81), Clark’s personal taste and unparalleled passion made him arguably the greatest private collector of the artist’s work. In 1941, Clark himself boasted: “I have the finest collection of Renoirs in existence without a doubt unless some 15 now unknown turn up.”
Renoir was born in 1841 in Limoges before moving to Paris in 1844. After an apprenticeship as a porcelain painter, he became a student in the studio of Charles Gleyre, where he met fellow painters Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille, with whom he later shared a studio. In 1862, Renoir was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts alongside Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne.
After working for a time with Monet in Argenteuil, Renoir’s first public acclaim came in 1874 when seven of his works were included in the first Impressionist exhibition. He married in April 1890 and had three sons, one of whom was the filmmaker Jean Renoir.
He continued to paint and to travel into the early 1900s, until he suffered a stroke in 1912. Soon after being named Commander of the French Legion of Honor, Renoir died in his home at Cagnes-sur-Mer on December 3, 1919.
The High Museum of Art was founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association, and is at 1280 Peachtree Street. Hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $8 adults. For information, 404-733-HIGH or high.org.
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