Currently on exhibit at The Barnes Foundation, Renoir: Father and Son / Painting and Cinema, is a fascinating examination of the work of impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and the exchange between his work and that of his son’s, filmmaker Jean Renoir. Both were visionaries and masters of their craft though different mediums but it is clear that Pierre-Auguste was highly influential on his son.
Pierre-Auguste often depicted his son in his paintings. His frequent presence emphasized the fatherly devotion he felt for his son. This was exuded in many of his works, one of the most well-known being Jean as a Huntsman. From an early age, Jean was exposed to an art-centered world, even posing for his father‘s work on several occasions. However, in his own films, Jean never portrayed his father directly. Unlike Pierre-Auguste, Jean sought to portray his subjects as failures, both broken and fragile.
One notable crossover between the duo’s artistry was due courtesy of French model, Andrée Heuschling. Heuschling was one of the last models who posed for Pierre-Auguste and is credited for inspiring The Bathers. Shortly after the death of his father, Jean married Heuschling. In order to advance his wife’s career, Jean depicted Heuschling in numerous cinematic works, later claiming that this was the catalyst for his foray into cinema. Heuschling starred in his first film, Backbiters, and many subsequent works thereafter.
The influence that Pierre-Auguste had over his son is clear in many of Jean’s films. In A Day in the Country there is an undeniable reference to his father’s painting, The Swing. In the movie, The River, Jean uses a more idealist vision of the natural Indian setting. His use of vibrant color and the river setting evokes the tints, shades, and settings of his father’s paintings. There are numerous other similarities throughout Jean’s films such as the use of the French countryside, which was the setting of Pierre-Auguste’s many works and his personal home.
This exhibition truly brings together the love and reciprocal influence of this father and son, and makes for a worthwhile visit to the Barnes Foundation this Memorial Day.
Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema. Now through September 3rd 2018
The Barnes Foundation. 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103