It was in the early 20th century that an Impressionist artist drew a painting in which a lady wearing a white long dress sat elegantly on a stool tying her shoelaces. Do you know who this painter was? Or have you seen this painting somewhere before?
The Impressionist painter that took the world by storm was Auguste Renoir, who drew an oil painting called Woman Tying Her Shoe (1918) in his late years.
Today, let this shoelace drawing show us the way to Mr. Renoir’s life in becoming an Impressionist painter as well as the style of this art genre.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) is a famous French artist who grew up in an artisan family. He was sent to a porcelain factory at the age of 13 when his parents discovered his remarkable artistic talents (Cogniat, 2019). Formerly, Renoir also assisted the factory masters with floral decorations or religious banners. As his artistic skills became more mature, he then devoted himself into École des Beaux-Arts—the national art school in France—and learned from academic artists (Cogniat, 2019).
The aspiration to rebel against the traditional art forms did not prevent Renoir from cultivating his expertise in the local French college. Further, Auguste Renoir met three powerful art allies during his time at École des Beaux-Arts, including Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), Claude Monet (1840-1926), and Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870). The four world-renowned artists not only became life-long friends, but also turned out to be the key leaders of Impressionism.
Since video cameras and action films did not come out until the late 20th century, art works at the time were quiescent representations of living humans, animals, objects, and sceneries. Renoir, Monet, Sisley and others believed that this form of crafts failed to reflect the reality. That is, the fluidity and constant changes of time, sensualities, and light are lost in these arts; even the contemporary genre—Realism—also disappointed them in delineating the real faces of the world. That idea then sparked the beginning of the Impressionist movement.
Academic vs. Impressionism
Academic arts (e.g. Classical, Renaissance, Realism, and etc.) all emphasized the creation of art within an “art room”, or any indoor environment, even for landscape paintings, which made the art works seem aloof from the actual environment. Renoir’s Impressionism ditched away this custom and brought creative works to the outdoor space where painters may imbibe the actual objects. Impressionist painters also use a relatively lighter brush with great intensity and more colorful paints to create a sense of action in the drawing. It seems unquestionable why Impressionism is given its name: painters carve out their impressions of an object flowing in time.
Take Renoir’s Woman Tying Her Shoe (1918) for example. We can see that the objects and lady character are not distinctly separated from one another. The brushes are instead hazy and obscure as if the lady is currently tying her shoelaces before us. Her white gown seems to show her vigor and motion as well. In addition, we may also say with some level of certainty that the painter highlights his center character with lighter paints. This way of drawing sunlight is also commonly seen among Impressionist works.
Despite criticisms from painters of other genres, Renoir and other Impressionist artists like him have certainly brought about transformational changes in art creations and the thinking toward them.
- “Impressionism.” Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019.
- Cogniat, Raymond. “Pierre-Auguste Renoir.” Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019.
- Renoir, Pierre Auguste. Woman Tying Her Shoe. 1918. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London. artandarchitecture.org.uk. Web. 16 Sep. 2019.
- Sullivan, Sean. Oil Portrait of Renoir. 2010. K. Sean Sullivan. ksean.com. Web. 16 Sep. 2019.