Renoir in the Fall

Fall in Quebec is a lovely time – a riot of red, yellow, orange, gold, green and brown mixed with yellow-gray skies and the crisp Autumn air. I find myself back again for a brief visit to my favourite North American city – Montreal. As I walk along familiar streets, tempting smells and the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal with its splendid art galleries, I am reminded how the colours of paintings have often inspired other media artists – especially film makers, interior designers, dance and theatre  set designers, costume designers and even musicians.

Did you know that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet had said that he was inspired by the works of Brazilian painter Juarez Machado to select his predominant red-green-yellow palette with spots of sporadic blue for his picturesque movie Amelie?

Still from the carnival ride of “Amelie”

The rooms from Jean-Pierre jeunet’s film “Amelie.” The director said that he was inspired by the colour palette of paintings of Brazilian painter Juarez Machado.

I was just gazing at the paintings of Renoir at an art gallery. Pierre-August Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919), as we all know is  one of the pioneers of the Impressionist style of painting. At his time he, along with Claude Monet, Pissarro and Sisley had formed a radical group of young artists to create a new style as a departure from previous academic techniques. The strokes and paint details were soft, overlapped, merged and diffused to give a dreamy style capturing the ‘essence’ of the subjects. Black was avoided and shadows were shown by mixing complementary colours. Impressionist classical music which developed in the late nineteenth century, seen in the works of Ravel and Debussy, captured that same light, feathery and dream-like quality. Renoir’s paintings are particularly noted for their vibrant and saturated colours, depictions of lively gatherings and soft portraits and nudes of women. His work is very rich in its capture of warmth and softness. Even after developing rheumatoid arthritis in 1892, Renoir continued to paint and produced several thousands of paintings in his lifetime.

Click on any of the paintings below to start a slideshow.

While soaking in the colours and compositions of Renoir, I was reminded of this scene I saw on youtube – a scene from the old musical GiGi, set in the early 1900s in Paris – that seemed remarkably like a Renoir painting breathed life into. I am not into musicals (find them too schmaltzy and boring at times, though for some of them, the set designs and costumes are worth watching). GiGi, alongwith My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music were however some of my grandmother’s favourites, so I remember the Christmas vacations when she’d play videos of them for us. I do not remember much of GiGi except the colours – and when I looked at Quebec’s autumn colours and the paintings in galleries in Rue St. Paul and some prints of the vibrant colours of Renoir’s work – I recalled this scene from that film. See for yourself (albeit this particular scene was placed more for its sound quality). But doesn’t it look like a Renoir painting come to life?

(When you full screen the above scene from the movie GiGi, it literally looks like the colours and characters of a Renoir painting has come to life. Try it!)

For the works and biography of Juarez Machado:

For the complete works and biography of Pierre-August Renoir:

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