Thursday, June 14, 2012
Renoir and his nude Venus
Montmartre, 1890 Renoir’s studio occupies the entire floor of an old building, located on a quiet street in Montmartre. Sketches, mirrors, finished and unfinished works hang on the walls. Various pieces of furniture fill in the space - two red armchairs, wooden tables of different sizes, a dresser a clothing hanger. Oils, paint, crayons, pencils, dirty patches of fabric, canvasses, and brushes are spread all over the atelier. His nude model is lying on the armchair. She has pale skin, green eyes and long blond hair – almost a beautiful cliché. She is not older than 18, but her gaze, her posture, her voluptuous body and nakedness make her look like an older, gracious woman. She is a child, a woman, a Mata Hari, a Venus in flesh. She is completely exposed, but still confident. She gazes at him, sensual, erotic, but with a sort of dignity, as if she knows that her perfectly white skin and nakedness will be admired by millions for many centuries to come. Today he will immortalize her. He wants to give the world her image, because he wants to keep the woman to himself. He stands in front of the canvas and paints her. His feet are bare, and his hands are delicate - almost feminine. He is wearing a white shirt - full of dry paint and a brown pair of patched pants. Despite the modest clothing, his moustache, his glasses, but mainly his posture makes him look dignified. He is the epitome of a veritable gentleman, a Renaissance intellectual. With a thin brush he goes down the counter of her on the canvas, and then on her breasts, her tights, and her legs – up and down. Then he starts on filling the brownish contours with light color. But no color could do justice to her skin He is nervous painting her face; he is afraid that he might not be able to capture her purity and her ferociousness in the same time. With a few thin brush strokes her heart-shaped lips smile softly at him from the canvas; it is a smile you barely see or understand. He chooses a thicker brush to shade her hair. With thin brushstrokes he adds shades of brown and lighter yellow highlights, immortalizing the movements of light dancing in her hair. After he finishes painting her blonde hair, he starts painting the background behind his Venus. He picks light blue, and yellow, green, and purple. She is no longer into his old atelier with cracking walls; he has placed her into a timeless, divine space where only saints belong. She picks her white robe from her feet and covers herself. She comes closer to him. They don’t say anything; they both look fascinated at the canvas in front of them. They don’t know that they are witnessing one of the most famous nudes in history; and that she will live forever, as “a Renoir”.