Renoir, la tradizione e l'altra faccia dell'impressionismo
Like many of his Impressionist peers, Renoir's work and career were subject to careful manipulation. When at the end of the nineteenth century, the French government sought to construct a narrative around the nation's cultural regeneration, Renoir was one of those selected as a scion of innovation. Like Monet, Pissarro, Manet and others, Renoir was credited with fashioning new methods of painting the city and its suburbs, narratives that have become part of the received wisdom of nineteenth century French art historiography. This article - one of seven revisionist essays by major impressionist scholars - aims to turn to a range of primary sources, to separate interpretations of Renoir and his work from latter day narratives and to look at the specific conditions in which the painter worked in Paris in the middle of the nineteenth century. Renoir, the article demonstrates, can be seen as one of the last artists to work in conditions that were set into place in the wake of the French Revolution, practicing by turns as a Salon painter and an artisan 'decoratuer' working in metiers as diverse as porcelain painting and interior decoration. In its search for a pure aesthetic expression unencumbered by commerce, the facet of Renoir's career was erased. Sponsored by the Italian government, the exhibition for which this essay was written, aims to present Renoir's work in a revisionist light.