Alexandre Renoir grew up listening to the stories his family told about his great-grandfather.
He enjoyed them, of course, but he was a small child. It was not until his early teens that he realized the enormity of his relative’s contribution: Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the founding fathers of Impressionism, the 19th century art movement which also starred Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas and Édouard. Mannet.
“I was raised in a strange way. Artists, poets and other important artistic figures came to our house for dinner,” said Renoir from his home in Sacramento, Calif. “We would have long conversations about art. I was well versed. We had a huge library about my great-grandfather at home, and I grew up with a 7-foot tall nude sculpture of my great-grandmother in the living room.
While he was surrounded by art and grew up sketching, sketching and sculpting, Alexandre didn’t fully embrace his talent in the visual arts until his late twenties. In his family, it was almost forbidden to continue anything resembling his great-grandfather’s work. Instead, the Renoirs branched out into film, inspired by Pierre-Auguste’s second son, Jean Renoir, who made more than 40 films from the silent era to the late 1960s.
“It’s speculation, but my instinct tells me when he (Pierre-Auguste) died in 1919, his three sons, including my grandfather, said what are we going to do?” said Alexander. “Dad died. He was one of the founding fathers of an entire art movement. (He cast) a huge shadow. That wasn’t their schtick. That’s why they got into the whole new form of art: cinema.
Alexandre gave it a shot, but it didn’t work: “I remember a director saying, ‘Alex, it’s like you don’t care.’ And that’s because I didn’t care. I would be disappointed and go home and paint something.
In doing so, he realized what he was meant to be all along: an artist, and only the second in his famous family. Works by Alexander, along with contemporary works by Marcus Glenn and abstracts by Tim Yanke, will be on display at Broadmoor at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Over time, Alexandre has created his style, even if he still shares some common points with his great-grandfather.
“The basis of Impressionism is a wonderful thing. I add a more modernist bright color palette to it, whereas before there were muted colors in my great-grandfather’s work,” said Alexandre. “He influenced me in his philosophy, that’s the No. 1 thing I take away from him.”
He summarizes this philosophy in a story: “Manet would tell Monet to tell his friend Renoir to find another job, because he will never succeed as an artist if he does not use the color black in his paintings.
Renoir would tell his buddy Monet to tell his buddy Manet to shut up, because there’s enough dark and ugly things in the world and he’s not going to add more. I try to make my paintings bright and cheerful.
One thing on which the two Renoirs differ is their method. Alexander uses a palette knife instead of a paintbrush to create his vividly colored and textured paintings, similar to the style of Vincent Van Gogh, he says, while his great-grandfather once joked that a knife paddle was only good for cleaning a paddle.
“(He was) a character and a half,” said Alexander. “Very humble, and not either. He knew who he was and what he was and how serious he was about his job. At home, you had the right to call him Mr. Renoir or Patron. He never denigrated anyone else’s craft or skills.
Contact the author: 636-0270
Contact the author: 636-0270