Saturday was the last appearance for the Renoir traveling exhibit in Philadelphia, so we took an early Septa train from Wilmington to Suburban Station. The exhibit being hugely popular, our tickets were timed for the 10:00 a.m. showing. We walked from the train station to the museum. The winter air was crisp and clear. I couldn't help but be impressed by the broad, clean streets and massive but stylish architecture, like a European capital (we also encountered a number of homeless, irrational, or simply indigent souls, unable to fit into our modern urban fantasy in any comfortable way, though they seem to survive.)
In the museum, we fell into the rhythms of modern paranoia; standing in line, having tickets checked, giving up coats, being ordered not to bring cameras or pens (just pencils, if you want to make notes), not staring back as you're constantly reappraised. Yet it seems reasonable. People are such shits, and I don't want Renoirs defaced, or have curators feel forced to put the artwork away in some crypt, away from my view. I want to stand a foot away and experience his genius, to study his deft brushwork and try in my mind to recreate the movement of his brushes, the how and why (art is constantly an accident.)
I enjoy painting and have an affinity with Renoir and other painters (there are many artists with whom I have no affinity at all, so I'm not embarrassed to claim the others.) He created many paintings in an hour or a day, and I could see in his brushwork and color selection some of the things I first did in painting, and why it didn't work for me or for him. But these were very small points; just amusing ones. Renoir was an artist in an era where he and his friends like Pissaro and Monet were constantly creating and recreating painterly techniques.
Renoir lived into his 70s, although the last twenty-five years he was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. As the disease progressed, he moved to a wheelchair and had relatives tie his brushes onto his hands. He was painting on the day he died.