Renoir’s Descendant Strikes Back at the Artist’s Haters on Instagram
She says that the market has spoken.
Even before protesters lined up outside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts this week, toting signs denouncing Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir for “sucking at painting,” Instagrammer Genevieve Renoir, who is a descendant of the artist, was taking to social media to defend her famous ancestor.
One piquant response to a post by an Instagrammer with the handle Renoir Sucks at Painting? “Your mother.”
She went on, “When your great-great-grandfather paints anything worth $78.1 million, then you can criticize. In the meantime, it is safe to say that the free market has spoken and Renoir did NOT suck at painting.” There follows a string of emoji, the hashtag #WORTHIT and a link to Wikipedia’s list of most expensive paintings.
Indeed, Renoir’s auction high stands at $78.1 million, for Au Moulin de la Galette (1876), which sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1990. In today’s dollars, as Genevieve Renoir points out, that’s $142.4 million, which earns it the 11th spot on that Wikipedia list. (Other paintings in that range include Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud and Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet.)
Renoir’s prices drop off steeply beyond that record, though, according to the artnet Auction Price Database—into the range of $30 million, corrected for inflation. So citing the market might not be the best way to defend him.
Anyway, back on Instagram, Renoir Sucks (a project of political organizer Max Geller) wound up and released a haymaker of a counterpunch.
“YOUR ARMS ARE TOO SHORT TO BOX WITH GOD,” he replied. “The free market has indeed spoken,” he says, and provides a litany of capitalism’s baleful results, including climate change, the prison-industrial complex, slavery, the destruction of sea otter habitats, the evisceration of the proletariat—all that, he says, and “the exaltation of your great grand pappy, Baron von Treacle himself.”
Renoir strikes back that she’s not just any heiress, and accuses the Renoir Sucks account of being “dedicated to insulting my family.”
Not so, says Instagrammer samboyant. “It’s more of a support group for art historians and cultural aficionados who literally barf every time they see a Renoir, which is all too often.”
Renoir certainly has his defenders, of course. Art collector and museum founder Robert Sterling Clark once wrote in diary, “I would much rather live with 20 Renoirs than with 20 Rembrandts!!!!” As it turned out, he’d rather live with no fewer than 33 paintings by the artist, since that’s the full number he bought. They now reside with the Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
When he was chief curator at New York’s Frick Collection, Colin Bailey (now director of the Morgan Library) pointed out in a lecture on Renoir’s “wall power” that in 1914, Henry Clay Frick paid no less than $35,000 for the artist’s La Promenade—that’s over $834,000 in today’s dollars—and dubbed it the most important Impressionist painting that the collector acquired. Other prominent institutions holding a number of Renoir’s paintings include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
But to Genevieve Renoir, the artist’s canvases aren’t just masterworks of art history. They can also be a spur to hit the gym. At the beginning of the summer, she posted one of the artist’s nudes, asking, “Bikini season already?”
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