Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Barnes Foundation strikes back

As discussed previously on this blog, there is a group, called "Renoir Sucks at Painting" which, quite justifiably in my opinion, dislikes the paintings of Renoir. I've detested his work since I was in art school.

I was at the Barnes Foundation museum a year and a half ago to see its Suzanne Valadon exhibition. Interestingly, Valadon modeled for Renoir, before she became a painter in her own right. I compared her work with Renoir's

I also noted that the Barnes Foundation is known for having a huge collection of Renoirs. I imagined they wouldn't be pleased with the RSAP movement and its threat to their business model.

Well the Barnes Foundation is fighting back. Their post on Linked In (why Linked In?) says:
💡Did you know?💡 A lot of people love to hate Pierre-Auguste #Renoir. There’s even an Instagram account dedicated to him called “Renoir Sucks at Painting.” While it is debatable if he truly sucks, he undoubtedly occupies the strange position of being one of the most beloved artists of all time yet also one of the most reviled.

Join us online on Wednesdays, 5/3 – 5/24, from 12-2 pm, *live from the Barnes galleries*—home to the largest Renoir collection in the world (181 paintings, to be exact!) for #BarnesClass: In Defense of Renoir, to survey the artist’s paintings and discuss some of the specific criticisms they have inspired across the decades. We’ll consider this question: what if his work is more interesting than we thought?

After discussing Renoir’s theories of art, we will use deep-zoom technology to look closely (more closely than you ever thought you could get to a priceless painting, tbh) at several canvases to develop a better appreciation for his craftsmanship and how it reflects the values of the early 20th century.

Renoir haters will be encouraged to rethink their opinions—but are also welcome to dig in their heels! Register for this course today

On Instagram, the Renoir Sucks at Painting response includes a video by Martha Lucy, Deputy Director for Research, Interpretation & Education Barnes Foundation along with this comment:
Hey Everybody! This is actually happening! The @barnesfoundation has an online class all about Renoir and they’ve invited us to participate! Congratulations to us all. We are a part of Art History, and our ghosts will haunt the vibes of Renoir lovers for generations to come.
Each class will be cool and informative. And also funny. You can buy tickets at the link in the bio, and if you’re willing to subject yourself to the indignity of typing RENOIR4EVER into the discount code box at checkout, you’ll save 10%. 
Also! very important! If the cost, discount notwithstanding is prohibitive, dm me! I’ll gladly walk you through getting a full ride. These Barnes curators, cheeky though they might be, are really good about making sure this thing is accessible to all!

In her 2019 lecture available on YouTube, "The Trouble with Renoir" Lucy seems defensive and even a little whiny, and the title refers to "the trouble" that not everybody loves Renoir like Martha Lucy does.

She argues that because many critics of Renoir use food terminology it means that they are equating Renoir's work with pleasure and since the critics are suspicious of pleasure, that is why they don't like his work. 

What bullshit.

The RSAP gang use a great food-related word that perfectly captures the painful diabetic ketoacidosisness of Renoir's work: "treacle."

Later in the lecture, Lucy admits part of the trouble with Renoir is the vapid male-gaze nudes he painted during his creepy-old-man-going-blind late period. But then she tries to excuse it by claiming Renoir was being "subversive."

And claiming Renoir was a big influence on the hideously misogynist Picasso is not the slam-dunk she apparently thinks it.

On the plus side, the lecture alerted me to this funny piece in The Onion: Art World Relieved As Thieves Steal Pretty Terrible Late Period Renoir Work

Monday, April 17, 2023


I saw some amazing mountain views while traveling by train through Germany and Austria.

On the other hand, I think I have a pretty great view out my own window.