3 Things You Might Not Know About Renoir and Art News of the Week 3 – 9 August

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881). Photo: Courtesy of the Phillips Collection, DC.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881). Photo: Courtesy of the Phillips Collection, DC.

This week, the German government took a surprising measure related to the federal budget for art acquisitions. Researchers from the University of Rome have used a plaster cast of the skull of the Italian Renaissance master, Raphael, to make a 3D reconstruction of his face. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg has been embroiled in allegations of discrimination and harassment in recent weeks. The Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) is one of Renoir’s most accomplished works and it contains many details that may go unnoticed at first glance.

Germany increases the budget for art acquisitions

August 05, 2020 – Via artforum.com

Germany’s Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. Photo: Wikimedia.org

This week the German government took a surprising measure related to the federal budget for art acquisitions, increasing last year’s budget by six times. Germany’s federal art collection was founded in 1970 and has a stock of more than 1,700 works of art on loan to national museums. This measure is part of a new cultural initiative to help dealers, galleries, and artists. The art sector has been hit very hard during this pandemic and the German art scene is no stranger to this reality.

Funding for the art ministry will thus increase from $590,000 to $3.5 million. These measures aim to “provide a rapid and effective impulse to revive art production in the current difficult situation,” according to Culture Minister Monika Grütters this week. This initiative comes on top of the German government’s $1.17 billion bailouts of the art sector last July. Most of this June rescue was earmarked for cultural institutions that do not receive public funds.

This government initiative will be used for the acquisition of around 150 works of art from galleries, art fairs, and also directly from studios. No purchase will be valued above $24,000 and all these purchases will be recommended by five jurors who will work on this project for a period of five years. This jury is initially composed of: the Hamburger Bahnhof’s Anna-Catharina Gebbers, the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart’s Ulrike Groos, the Kunsthalle Bielefeld’s Friedrich Meschede, and the MARTa Herford’s Roland Nachtigäller.

3D Reconstruction of Renaissance Master Raphael’s Face

August 7, 2020 – Via artnews.com

Raphael, Self-portrait, ca. 1504-06, tempera on panel. Photo: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

As is often the case with historical figures who existed before the age of photography, we do not always manage to get a clear picture of what they really looked like. But new technology seems to be about to solve this situation in some cases. In this case, researchers from the University of Rome have used a plaster cast of the skull of the Italian Renaissance master, Raphael, to make a 3D reconstruction of his face. This type of study has helped to authenticate the rest of some other artists who could not be recognized before.

The researchers made a detailed comparison of some existing self-portraits of the artist with this 3D reconstruction and managed to find the remains of some of the artist’s students buried near the Italian master’s grave. Mattia Falconi, a molecular biologist from the University of Rome, said that “Until now, we were not sure that the remains found and preserved in the Pantheon were really those of Raphael. Facial reconstruction is an interdisciplinary technique capable of recreating, based exclusively on the morphology of the skull, the face of a person at the time of death”.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in 1520 and his name has already made several headlines in the world news. For example, the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome closed and rescheduled in March, a major exhibition on Raphael that would feature more than 200 works due to the pandemic. But the good news for fans of the work of this master painter is that the exhibition reopened on June 2 and will remain open until August 30.

Canada’s Museum of Human Rights has been accused of discrimination

August 8, 2020 – Via artdaily.com

Gabriela Aguero, a former guide at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Photo: Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The New York Times.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg has been embroiled in allegations of discrimination and harassment in recent weeks. Because of this, last Wednesday the museum published a report that concluded that “racism is pervasive and systemic within the institution”. Among the allegations are guides who said their managers ordered them to block an exhibit on same-sex marriage during visits to the museum by religious schools, black and Native American employees who said they were scorned and female employees who said they were sexually harassed.

This is certainly a remarkable ironic situation for a museum dedicated to documenting the history of human rights, and the report has been received as a bitter reproach. Barbara Nepinak, a member of the museum’s Special Indigenous Advisory Council said, “This is a tainted place as far as I’m concerned. But it can be fixed and I firmly believe it will be fixed”. Museum officials admitted that they had received and complied with requests from school groups to withhold content they might find objectionable. Because of this type of action, the president of the institution resigned and the rest of the board has issued a public apology.

After the presentation of the report, the acting executive director of the museum, Pauline Rafferty, said that “We have accepted the conclusions of the report in their entirety and the recommendations in principle. The opportunity here is to make systemic changes but it will take time and be hard work”. She has promised to take steps such as the creation of a committee to address central issues such as diversity and inclusion.

3 Things You Might Not Know About Renoir

August 7, 2020 – Via artnet.com

Renoir painting outdoors, circa 1910s, with his right hand. Photo: Print Collector/Getty Images.

The Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) is one of Renoir’s best and most accomplished works. This work is in the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC and is certainly well known and loved, but it contains many details that may go unnoticed at first glance. First, it is a large painting measuring 51 by 68 inches. This is one of the biggest canvases made by Renoir and one of the most difficult due to the number of characters in the scene. It took the artist sixteen months to complete this image of casual leisure.

The most common themes dealt with in this work focus on the figures portrayed and their relationship with the painter’s friends of the time. For example, there is in the painting a young man dressed in a straw hat and a T-shirt in the lower right corner, and this young man was the impressionist Gustave Caillebotte. But to go a little further in the details that can be found in ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’ we have here three facts that may change the way we see this play:

  1. Completing this work was a great achievement for Renoir, during the process he felt somewhat lost and at times he felt he didn’t know how to finish it. But ironically an accident may have helped him since he broke his right arm when he fell off his bike and was then forced to work on his left one. This problem of working with his less dominant arm seems to have inspired him to progress. He later wrote, “It is even better than what I did with my right. I think it was a good thing that I broke my arm. It allows me to progress.”
  2. This work was a farewell to Impressionism, as Renoir exclaimed in a note to his patron Paul Berard “I promise that this will be the last great painting”. The artist was worried that his association with Impressionism was a mistake because he was bankrupt at the time. He feared that this venture would cost him commissions, so he felt he should move away from Impressionism and return to more solid images.
  3. The work has suffered a literal loss of luster, as the American collector Duncan Phillips who had bought the work in 1923, sought out restorers Sheldon and Caroline Keck in 1954 to repair a blister on the surface of the canvas. But in the process, the restorers ventured to clean the canvas, causing its blooming colors to appear dry and sagging after this process.

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