I decided to visit the Norton Simon Museum of Art, 411 W. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, corner of Orange Grove Blvd. and Colorado Blvd and can safely say that I was pretty much bowled over by the experience. Paintings are arranged in a very helpful manner and I was definitely spoilt for choice with regards to the array of works on offer. First off I decided to analyse Pierre Auguste Renoir’s seminal painting, ‘The Pont des Arts, Paris’ dating from 1878 and which is oil on canvas. This is a truly seminal painting in French impressionist style and it demonstrates the importance which this artist was held in Parisian society circles. The Norton Museum is replete with several paintings from this era so the comparison with other pieces was an aesthetically refreshing experience in every way. The piece of art selected is two dimensional and is in quite a large scale while it is also a representation of a scene. The subject is a landscape painting and it is also proportionally correct. The work has a focal point which is the River Seine and it is also balanced with a color scheme that focuses on bold and bright colors. The piece is a simple portrayal of a scene on a bridge which is a popular meeting place for Parisian high society.
Pierre August Renoir: The Pont des Arts, Paris (1878, Oil on Canvas)
Renoir’s bold form of impressionism lent itself to a number of finely wrought paintings which definitely show his affinity with the landscape genre. This magnificent view of Paris in the late 19th century almost brings up memories of Proustian elegance with its cultivated beauty.
One of the most enlightening features of this painting is the manner in which the boats are portrayed as they laconically await other passengers to board them. Renoir uses bold brushwork to convey a heady sense of imagery and relaxation; this is an artistic form which permeates the whole painting. The glut of people who are ready to board the boat seem to recede into the distance although one can also make out certain details such as men in hats and women in long blue skirts. Another particularly interesting and intriguing effect is the use of shadows in the foreground of the painting which also demonstrates Renoir’s boldly innovative painting techniques.
Jean Baptise Armand Guillaumin: The Seine at Charenton (1874, Oil on canvas)
This is an oil on canvas painting which demonstrates several typical features of the time.
Probably one of the most sought after artists in the world, Guillamin painted this magnificent work in 1874 when at the height of his powers. The heady impressionism of the piece is extraordinary and it is very beautiful in that it portrays a sense of eroticism although at the same time there is a relaxed feel about it. The stark element of contrast could not be greater since the artist seems to be comparing the hard life of those who toiled in Parisian factories to those bon vivants who had nothing better to do than take a stroll alongside the Seine. The attention to detail is considerable; one can see the smoke emanating from the chimneys in the distance while the woman walks along with the air of a strutting peacock as she holds her umbrella aloft. There seems to be a sense of security for the woman in the painting as she walks along, with the smoke constantly receding into the distance like some ogre of progress. The sense of female embodiment which Guillaumin portrays is self-evident as the men who languish at the top of the river bank wall gaze down on her in almost lustful admiration. This is a very powerful painting indeed and demonstrates the sheer sense of self-effacing mannerisms which permeated the French impressionist artists at the time. One is almost reminded of Georges Seurat with the pixelated imagery and the Seine backdrop has also been used by other artists in their works. Guillamin is certainly up there with the greats in the manner with which he portrays his subjects and imagery with other details such as the lamp posts and flags coming across as very colourful and hauntingly beautiful.
Joseph G. Stella (1975). The Graphic Work of Renoir: Catalogue Raisonne. London: Lund Humphries.
Jean Leymarie et Michel Melot (1971). Les Gravures Des Impressionistes, Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley. Paris: Arts et Metiers Graphiques.
Michel Melot (1996). The Impressionist Print. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Theodore Duret (1924). Renoir. Paris: Bernheim-Jeune.