People Are Protesting Renoir

Renoir's "Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary."

IgorGolovniov / Shutterstock.com Renoir’s “Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary.”

In strange but also-kind-of-funny art news, a group of people gathered outside of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston last week to protest French impressionist painter Renoir. The group’s purpose was to project their hatred of Renoir’s work, holding signs that said “God hates Renoir” and “Put some fingers on those hands!”

The protest, organized by Max Geller, who runs an Instagram account called Renoir Sucks at Painting, hoped that the group would encourage the museum to remove Renoir’s works from its grounds, ideally to be replaced by art Geller and his supporters would deem acceptable.

Monday, the New Yorker published an article called “Hating Renoir is Just a Phase,” in which art critic Peter Schjeldahl refers to the protesters as “silly.” He asks, “Have the R.S.A.P. members ever truly looked at Renoir’s ‘Dance at Bougival?…If you must hate yourself a little for loving Renoir, do so. You’ll get over it.”

Schjeldahl adds that Renoir “painted very well when he cared to,” in defense of Renoir’s work. The protestors claim that the picketing of the Museum of Fine Arts was only “the first of many anti-Renoir direct actions.” The group has no objections to the other artists represented in the museum, but feel that “Renoir’s fuzzy pink women and scary looking babies” detract from the overall experience of visiting the museum.

Geller and his group are not the first people to ever bash the artist. Critics have complained that the artist was too generous with his colors, and lacked respect for composition or lines—in short, his work is just vaguely pleasant paintings, with nothing to contribute to discussion. In 1874, writer Albert Wolff wrote sourly of Renoir: “Try to explain to M. Renoir that a woman’s torso is not a mass of decomposing flesh with green and purple spots that indicate the state of total putrefaction in a corse!” he said.

Renoir’s paintings have endured perhaps simply because they are pretty, and he did add to and help grow the Impressionist school, even if he was a weak-willed anti-Semite. Perhaps his work will be removed from museums, but if these protests ever pick up traction, who knows.



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