“Renoir is perhaps the only great painter who never painted a sad picture.”

                                                                                                        Octave MirbeauI

I love painting.

I don’t love painting the bathroom or the kitchen, but I love painting,  as in the stuff hanging in the Musée d’Orsay, the National Gallery, the Vatican — like that.

When I travel, I go to museums. When I read, I sometimes choose  the biographies of great artists or I select art histories.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the sadness and the mental angst in some of the great artists stands out, and yet not with all of them — not with Renoir.

I love Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

For me, art and happiness, art and family, art and community, art and the good life merge in Renoir. This is personal. It’s been an epiphany for me. When I have encountered Renoir, at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, at the National Gallery in London, at home through Francesca Castellani’s Renoir: His Life and Works, I have found myself quite wonderfully smitten with his work.

In Renoir there is no dark societal evil such as we find in Pieter Bruegel. There are no horrible family feuds lurking, as with Vincent Van Gogh. There is no drunken self-destruction as in Jackson Pollock. Pillaging, evil, raging, darkness, addiction, mental illness – we don’t find this in Renoir. What a relief!

Sane life; sane art.

Renior at home, with his wife Aline, in the fields, with his children, with his friends, his community, nature all around — this inspired his art.

It isn’t that life was perfect for the Renoirs: There were Renoir’s early rejections by the Salon juries, there was Aline’s suffering with diabetes, there was the progressive deformity of Renoir’s hands from arthritis. This severely limited his mobility during the last twenty years of his life.

But despite these hardships, life was good for him, Renoir kept painting, and he reveled in the good he saw around him.

Renoir made the everyday gorgeous — a skiff, flowers, a child dancer, girls at the piano, a woman bathing, a couple dancing, a boating party.

He was gentle with reality, painting it softly, graciously. When we take in his oeuvre, we are invited into his comprehensive tactility, delicacy, intimacy, his charming domesticity — all in sumptuous living color.

This is helpful to me and to all of us who aspire to write, to develop craft, to do music, to paint, to do art. We can be artistic, and mentally sound. It’s a revelation. We can be highly creative — and also stable.

We can love, and craft art out of love, and give the world something needed when it is a bit crazy as it is always want to be. We can show life off in all its gorgeous sanity.

Renoir did. Velvety bodies, pearly flesh, flushed cheeks, dark eyes, soft hair — Renoir loved us.

And for this and all the good he enjoyed — I love him back.

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