Renoir and Zola: On Gutsiness

“It is not enough to speak well of those whom one admires; one must speak ill of those one hates.”– Emil Zola,+Renoir,+1881.jpg

Pierre August Renoir, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1885, The Phillips Collection

Pierre-August Renoir, oddly thought of as making sweet and saccharine paintings by those who have either never looked at his work seriously or have no idea what tough painting amounts to. For sweet, saccharine paintings look at Julian Schnabel or other faux-expressionists. For powerfully expressive paintings view Renoir and the other Impressionists.

The intensity or toughness of a painting has nothing to do with its subject matter. It has to do with the intensity of the emotion experienced and expressed.

Compare the intensity of Renoir’s involvement with fugitive effects of light in the painting above and and the immense richness and detail of his imaginative reconstruction of a brief moment in time with the leaden and pompous grandiosity of America’s so-called deans of Expressionist painting. Below are three examples–painters who haven’t bothered to condescend to learn how to draw, reveling in the delusional notion that all that’s necessary to make great painting is their own natural genius and rote imitations of “expressionist” mark making.

The bankruptcy of any kind of art critical language is clearly evident in the common acceptance that Renoir is an “Impressionist” and Schnabel and Company are “Expressionist” when the reverse is OBVIOUSLY the case.

Susan Rothenberg. Yes, it’s this bad. A cabal of critics, collectors and dealers actually established this ridiculous kind of painting as major American Art and it’s still hyped as such. When Balthus asked how anybody could like something as ugly as a Warhol or Duane Hanson, he had no idea that the brigades of Susan Rothenbergs were still in the wings. What I have to ask is how so many critics could see work this patently ridiculous and rotten and greet it with hymns of praise. Robert Hughes, as clueless as any art critic to have ever  claimed the title was one of Rothenberg’s chief bugle blasters, while deriding Julian Schnabel. As over-rated as Schabel’s work is it isn’t close to as bad as Rothenberg’s.  Schnabel is at least trying to do something original.

Julian Schnabel. If you saw this at Tex’s Roadside Antique Shop do you think you’d recognize it as the height of American Painting of the early 80s. My sense of what the artist is trying to tell us here is: “I can’t draw faces so I”ve given up completely on hands….. but I seem to have a knack for gluing bric a brac onto a flat surface.”

Jean Michel Basquiat. This is John Berger’s and Peter Schjeldahl’s notion of the Olympian heights of painting. Small wonder they’re two of the most celebrated art critics of our times. I tried to sit through a Schjedahl talk on youtube. I couldn’t do much more than pick a minute here and there trying to find something worth listening to. Failed to find anything.

While Clement Greenberg mostly talked thoroughly ridiculous bullshit (with some exceptions), at least he made it interesting. Schjeldahl doesn’t even bother to do that.

I can’t bring to mind anybody I’ve ever seen with so many speech affectations and inane hand gestures. It’s almost painful to watch. I think they both come from someone not particularly at ease with their own fraudulence. This is how someone sounds who doesn’t believe in anything at all. He strikes me as the equivalent of a a Used Car Salesman who’s never driven a car.

About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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