Tom Stammers at Literary Review:
Pierre-Auguste Renoir lived long enough to see himself canonised. In 1911, he was the first Impressionist artist to be accorded a full monograph study, penned by Julius Meier-Graefe. In 1915 he was filmed at home in Cagnes-sur-Mer by Sacha Guitry for the series The Great Ones Among Us, in which the 74-year-old artist appears heroically applying paint to canvas, in defiance of his rheumatoid arthritis. In 1919, shortly before his death, the frail Renoir was carried on a chair to see his portrait of Madame Charpentier installed in the Louvre, an honour never before bestowed on a living artist. The evocative, doting 1958 biography written by his son, film director Jean Renoir, further burnished his reputation for kindness, wisdom and valour in adversity. Sixty years on, Barbara Ehrlich White now seeks to go beyond the legend by offering an intimate picture of the beloved Impressionist’s life, drawing on a vastly extended corpus of more than three thousand letters. In contrast to the outward simplicity and modesty noted by contemporaries, Renoir emerges from her study as a man who was painfully ambivalent in his attitude towards modern France and his own commercial success.
In his first canvas of daily life, The Inn of Mother Anthony, Marlottefrom 1866, Renoir depicted a group of his friends around a table, chatting over the newspapers, a caricature of Henri Murger looming on the wall behind them.