Another illustrious name handed to us

Welcome to the ranks of the deplorables, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

White explains Renoir’s unease with modernity by referring to his artisanal background. Born in Limoges in 1841, the son of a tailor, Renoir received an upbringing that engrained in him a nervous insecurity about status and an urge to conform. His humble beginnings informed his sentimentalised view of the working classes, which he considered to have been coarsened not just by mechanisation but also by socialism. In 1897 he railed against the automobile as an ‘idiotic thing’ and a symbol of ‘decadence’, insisting that ‘there is no need to go so fast’; he denounced the invention of the railway as a ‘crazy idea’ which had resulted in ‘too much coming and going’; in 1904, he confessed to the journalist C L de Moncade (with some justice), ‘I am the worst old fogey there is among the painters.’ This suspicion of modern technology went hand in hand with a suspicion of broader social changes. Extremely needy for male friendship, Renoir took a dim view of women’s intellectual abilities and described feminist authors such as George Sand and Juliette Adam as ‘calves with five hooves’. At the height of the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s, Renoir threw in his lot with the conservative Right and slandered French Jews as rootless cowards.

One Response

  1. Someone should make a website cataloging all these names.

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