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4.8 out of 5 stars
Renoir, My Father (New York Review Books Classics)
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Not only is this a book about Renoir, whose tableaux peer out of every other art store on every mall in North America (what a curious fate!), it is also a book about Paris. Born in 1841, Renoir was older than most of the other Impressionists with whom he grew friendly later. He also had the chance to see Paris as it was before the Commune and the war of 1870. He lived a good part of his life on the Butte in Montmartre and it is hard now to recapture the atmosphere up there among the hordes of tourists. Yet early on Sunday mornings with a light rain playing on the umbrellas of the artist's stands in the Place du Tertre, you can wander freely among the memories of the rue Lepic and elsewhere, and catch glimpses of Renoir (and others) as you pass through the old streets. Reading this book first will help.
Jean Renoir is a very famous artist in his own right, having made numerous films and become one of the most acclaimed directors in French cinema history. Here he has taken great pains to paint a fine portrait of his renowned father, this time with a pen. He has succeeded admirably.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Impressionism is my favorite style of painting so I was really enchanted with this biography. Written by Renoir's middle son, Jean, Renoir, My Father not only gives us an intimate look at the life of Auguste Renoir, it gives us an intimate look at the Paris of Renoir's day as well.
As we get to know Renoir we get to know his contemporaries, too. Jean Renoir writes about Monet, Cezanne, Manet, Sisley and many other great artists. We learn many "little known" facts, such as Monet's penchant for lace and his "artful" way with the ladies.
Paris really comes alive in this book. Many of the places Renoir writes about still exist and can be visited today. This book makes any art lover's trip to Paris more meaningful whether he's a Renoir fan or not.
When reading this book, one must remember that this is not a "run of the mill" biography. This is a son writing about the father he adored. The portrait we are given is very intimate, detailed and loving. It's obvious that Jean Renoir adored his father, just as Auguste Renoir adored his family.
Ultimately, this book is a beautiful tribute from a loving son to a father who was one of history's consummate artists. If you have any interest at all in art, this is one book you simply must not pass up. The last page alone will break your heart.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Renoir was far more than one of the world's greatest artists. He was an adventurer, a family man, a man who held interesting views on just about every subject under the sun, and finally, in his later years, a martyr to life. Although this book was written by Renoir's middle son, Jean, it is as vibrant and alive as if Renoir, himself, had just written the words in his own hand. Through this book we learn how the Renoir family left its roots in Limoges and moved to Paris. We read of Renoir's early years as a painter of porcelain and how and why he became an artist, more specifically, an Impressionist. We learn of Renoir's marriage to Aline Charigot of Essoyes, the birth of his three sons and his move to the south of France. Some of the most interesting sections of the book deal with Renoir's feelings about the effect of light on a painting and why he needed to paint in a "natural" setting. Also, most interesting are the chapters on the birth of Impressionism and Renoir's relationships with the other artists of the time, such as Monet, Manet, Sisley and Cezanne, just to name a few. Lovingly and charmingly written, this book truly brings Renoir to life and makes him accessible to all. Absolutely a must for anyone with even a passing interest in art or artists!
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book has given me tremendous insight into the Renoir family as well as the birth of Impressionism. The previous reviewer said it better than I--it really IS like sitting down and having a conversation with Renoir, himself, and I, too find a new gem with each rereading. I know of no other book that illuminates the life of an artist so intimately or honestly.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is absolutely the best book ever written about Pierre-Auguste Renoir. You will learn about the birth of Impressionism from the inside-out, you will learn about the Renoir family, you will learn about Renoir, the man, not simply Renoir, the artist. And yes, you WILL find a new gem with each re-reading!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This book is like sitting down with Renoir and
speaking with him through his son. While it is
true that these are the recollections of a son,
the father comes through in a way that is rarely
contradicted by other primary sources. I have
read it many times and always find a new gem with each reading. If you want to get to know Renior the man, this is the book for you.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book presents a very touching portrait of Auguste Renoir. The recollections of his son, Jean, are wonderful to read and bring the artist alive, both as a man and as an aritst. And if you read the book, you will see why "The Cork" preferred never to be referred to as an "artist," a title he certainly deserves!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
We adopted "Renoir, My Father" as bedside reading while my wife was recovering from hip surgery, and (aside, perhaps, from "Goodnight, Moon,") I can't imagine better therapy. This is odd, in a way: Claude was an old man (and in pain) when Jean got to know him, and Jean was an old man when he finally brought his recollectios together. You might expect cranky, but nothing of the sort: it's a book full of sunny afterglow. Every parent would hope to be rememnbered so well.
The book might take a bit of getting used to: Jean has his own pace and his own way of telling his story. We did it in small doses and I'm not certain yet that I quite catch the rhythm. None of the rough edges have been smoothed off which, come to think of it, is just as Claude would have wanted: Jean speaks with his own voice. You have to listen well, but you know that the voice is nobody else's.
I suppose it helps to know a bit about the Impressionists to enjoy it all, but I can't say I know all that much, and I didn't feel impaired. Anyway, God bless Google: more than once, when Jean talked about a painting or a subject, I key-clicked my way to an image and completed (as it were) the picture.
Kudos also to NYRB (this time) for producing what it does not always produce: a finished physical specimen The paper feels like quality; the binding is sturdy, and there is a small but satisfying selection of pictures, both colored and black-and-white. There is even an index of sorts (I assume from the original translator) but it is patchy and incomplete. That last is a shortcoming, but forgivable in light of the book's other virtues. In the NYRB firmament, this is surely a star.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Renoir isn't dead. He lives in this book, and in the minds of everyone who reads it. Every artist, independent of medium, needs to read this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The great film director Jean Renoir tells the story of the life of one of the great masters of modern painting, his father Auguste Pierre Renoir. He does this in an intelligent, perceptive and humane way. He was close to his father , had many long intimate conversations with him, and truly cared for, honored and admired him.

The story begins in 1915 when the young Renoir who has been wounded in the leg is released from the Army and returns home. He has too received terrible news which has crushed his father. The mother of the family has died. Returning home he and his father develop a closer relationship than they have had before.

Young Renoir traces the history of the family back to the time of his great- grandparents. He tells of the early years of his father , when he worked as craftsman doing portraits on porcelain. He tells of his father's understanding of his art and of the special joy in which he worked and lived.

He describes his father's economical and non- romantic approach to Painting. And he also tells the story of how his father continued to paint also to the very last minutes of his life. And how the honors and wealth which came to Renoir in his last years did not effect his fundamental vision or way of working in life.

What is apparent through this work is that a loving son truly seeks to understand and represent his father truly- and that one great artist has a capacity for understanding another great one.

A wonderful book.
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