Okay, so I’d be full of malarkey if I didn’t tell you about my two other favorite paintings in the Frick Collection. Unfortunately, La Promenade by Pierre Auguste Renoir has nothing to do with Marie Antoinette or royal headgear but at least we can throw France in there as a tie-in. Grasping at straws? Nah…I’m just being self-indulgent and talking about me and a fucking awesome Impressionist…pardon my French… and we’re back in! (scoff if you want, I love my puns.)
I can’t tell you what first struck me about this painting or why I linger at such a maternal scene every time I visit the Frick. I’m not even that big of a Renoir aficionada. I’ve always considered myself more of a Van Gogh girl…but dig what the museum catalogue has to say on the scene. (For once I’ll freely admit someone knows more than I do.)
A young woman shepherds a pair of identically dressed little sisters along the path of a well-maintained public park. All three figures are outfitted for the cold and in the height of fashion. The eldest wears a blue velvet jacket with wide sleeves trimmed with red fox; the little girls wear miniature blue-green jackets trimmed with either swansdown or white mink. Further up the pathway to the right, Renoir has included no fewer than eleven additional figures and two playful dogs. La Promenade was the centerpiece of the artist’s submission to the Second Impressionist Exhibition in the spring of 1876. To his dismay, most critics ignored this ambitious figure painting and those who commented on it did so unfavorably.
Source: Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting. New York: The Frick Collection, 2012
What blows my mind is that whoever wrote this can pinpoint that the overcoats are made of velvet trimmed in red fox fur and the little girls sport either white mink or swan down. Impressionism can’t exactly demand that type of specificity in interpretation. The writer must be an expert in the 1875 Winter Fashion lines. Equally jaw-dropping for your blog hostess is that the critics turned up their noses at the same work that leaves me hypnotized. Based on these two miscues, can we safely assume I know nothing about art?
I do know this: above la Promenade is not to be confused with another Renoir work in the Los Angeles Getty Center, also referred to as “la Promenade,” although Renoir apparently never gave it a title.