Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blasting the Canon by Danielle Hurd

The majority of readers probably do not know the origin of this blog and it's name. So let me tell you:

It was originally conceived by a few members of the AHA during the department field trip to Los Angeles last Winter semester. At the time LACMA was hosting a Renoir retrospective. The exhibit focused on the last three decades of the artist's career and was co-curated by LACMA and the d'Orsay. LACMA is a Wonderful museum and I loved their facilities and collections. However, I HATE Renoir. I am sorry if he is your favorite painter and that offends you. You are entitled to your opinion, but I have my reasons (see below). So, as I strolled the gallery halls I shared my (strong) feelings with a few others of the group and we realized we all hated Renoir and couldn't understand why he was even a part of the canon any more. Thus The Canon was born as a place to laud those artists we felt were underrated and rail against those artists we hated.

Now The Canon is meant to be a forum for all members of AHA and beyond to give their insights on art, but in the spirit of the initial purpose of the blog I offer:

Top 5 Reasons to Kick Renoir out of the Canon:

5. He went turncoat on the Impressionists. Boo!

4. Speaking of the Impressionists, he blatantly copied Monet, who was a MUCH better artist.

3. He was horrible at painting figures, faces, and really any other part of the body (see above). Not that being able to paint a figure is the only mark of artistic merit, but for someone who devoted so much time to it, you would think he'd be better.

2. His works serve better for mass poster reproductions to be hung on the walls of teenage girls than they do for academic research.

1. THE most important! He was a misogynist pig who said things like: “I consider women who are authors, lawyers and politicians are monsters," and "When I've painted a woman's bottom so that I want to touch it, then [the painting] is finished," along with many other choice phrases which I won't quote here, but you can find in Anna Chave's "New Encounters with Les Demoiselles D'Avignon."Anna Chave, now there is someone I can get behind. She rocks, no matter what Renoir has to say about lady authors.

Like I said, this is my opinion. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know! Who would you add in or edit out if you were re-writing Gardners?


  1. Ha! I have to comment on this right away, since I hate Renoir too! Haters of Renoir U-NITE!

    (I posted a little bit about my distaste for Renoir on my blog a while ago, though I have to admit that I do feel a little sorry for him. You can see a little of my reasoning here: http://albertis-window.blogspot.com/2010/01/sympathy-for-renoir.html) Still, though, I think his art is horrendous. His figures are awful and he has a horrid use of color.

    Another reason why I hate Renoir (which is associated with your #1 reason) is that he was a really dirty, lewd man. He asserted that he "painted with his prick" (in other words, suggesting that his paintbrush was like a phallus). You can bet that comment has attracted some psychoanalysis! Blech. (If anyone is interested, you can read commentary on that quote here: Tamar Garb, “Renoir and the Natural Woman,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard., (New York: Harper Collins, 1992), 296.)

    P.S. It looks like Mark M's distaste for Renoir is rubbing off on his students, eh?

  2. I think if number one is your most important reason, then you are going to gave to cut a lot more than Renoir from your canonical list! Since Pliny's recounting of Apelles, a male painter being lecherous towards the ladies seemed par for the course even 2 millennia ago!


  3. M-That was the comment I alluded to but did not cite in the Les Demoiselles article in the volume Reclaiming Female Agency by the same editors. We read it in Heather's grad sem. Mark definitely agrees with me, but I think we, his students, have taken our hatred a step beyond.

    H-You are definitely right, I supposed I have just chosen to make Renoir my martyr because, 1) I also think he is technically a horrible artist and thus there is no good reason to keep him around--I dislike Gauguin for the same reasons, but his painting is harder to dismiss, 2) He was pretty outrightly crude in his commentary on the subject, so I hardly think he was sinning in ignorance, and 3) I think it is dangerous the way he has become the favorite painter of so many girls and women who do not know what Renoir was really interested in. But, very valid point, perhaps reason #1 is not the most important, merely the one that set me over the edge.

  4. Never really been a big fan. You've converted me to the un-fan club.

  5. I tweeted about this post yesterday, and someone responded on Twitter to mention that Renoir showed up in "The Onion" today. How appropriate! You'll enjoy this: http://www.theonion.com/articles/art-world-relieved-as-thieves-steal-pretty-terribl,18251/

    And yeah, I think that the students have taken a step beyond Mark's distaste for Renoir. It really is because of the article by Chave (as cited by Garb). I first read it in Heather's grad seminar as well. I guess we can attribute our hatred to the collective efforts of Heather and Mark!

  6. I just dislike his paintings, they are so, hmm, wet and sappy. I also hate the way that (non exclusively Renoir) exhibitions ALWAYS use him as the poster boy when they actually have much better works of art. An exhibit at my local gallery recently had Renoir all over all the publicity material even though they only had one work and made it just look like another boring Renoir based exhibit when they actually had some really great expressionist paintings.
    Down with Renoir.