Watching Phil Grabsky's new documentary on Renoir, Renoir - Revered and Reviled, I felt a little like I've felt waiting for one of my children to say their lines in a school play - I couldn't really enjoy the film until my bit had passed and there were no fluffed lines. In spite of this I have to say it is a beautiful film where the camera's ability to go close to the surface of a painting and explore the beauty of colour and texture was combined with a wonderful soundtrack of 'Songs of the Auvergne'-type singing by a female vocalist. Renoir's biography is neatly told by excerpts from his son's account Renoir My Father read by an actor with an authentic accent and accompanied by footage of Paris, the countryside near the city and the South of France on screen. There is also and introduction to The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia - Barnes was a millionaire chemist who collected 181 Renoirs directly from his dealer and they hang alongside fellow Impressionists as well as artists who were deeply influenced by Renoir's late work, such as Matisse and Picasso. Running through the film is an argument about just how Renoir should be judged, particularly in relation to his preferred motif of the young female nude - Old Master or self indulgent sexist. Revered or reviled? #eosrenoir
Renoir and me - on screen.
I've a lot to thank Pierre-Auguste Renoir for. Writing and illustrating my second book Paint Like Renoir (Octopus Books) taught me a huge amount about oil painting. In order to emulate Renoir's technique I had to try things that I had often thought of trying, but always put off for another day. Things such as painting on a white canvas surface, diluting the paint with linseed oil and turps and painting loose shapes as opposed to drawing out my subject first. I had to buy new tubes of colours that I hadn't used before and began to experiment with greater quantities of thick oil paint made fluid with oil and then floated on the wet painting's surface. When the book was finished I then went on to employ many of these approaches in my own work and I believe that, thanks to Renoir, my paintings are nowmore vibrant and 'painterly' than before.
A few months after the book was published I was contacted by a film maker Phil Grabsky of Exhibition on Screen www.exhibitiononscreen who was making a film about Renoir's late nudes and exploring his life and work through the collection at The Barnes Foundatioin, Philadelphia. He interviewed me on film and asked me to demonstrate some of the artist's approaches and discuss the ways in which Renoir's technique and his use of colour evolved in the later years. The film has it's premier tomorrow in London and will be shown first in Edinburgh on 23rd February at The Vue cinema, Omni Centre, 7pm. http://www.myvue.com/latest-movies/info/cinema/edinburgh-omni-centre/film/renoir-the-unknown-artist and then on 14th March at The Cameo https://www.picturehouses.com/cinema/Cameo_Picturehouse/film/exhibition-on-screen-renoir-reviled-and-revered
I know I've said it before, but Degas Made Me Do It...exploring his pastel technique in order to write the book, taught me an enormous amount about this medium. Well 18 months later I have found that chalk pastels layered over a charcoal drawing are exactly what I have been looking for to help me develop and resolve images that I can then use as a basis for oil paintings. So I'm converted and will happily share some of these insights at a Pastel Workshop on Saturday 19th March at WASPS studios - read more
Damian Callan is a practising figurative artist and tutor based in Edinburgh.