The Frick Collection in New York is one of my favorite museums in the world. I have a soft spot for private homes turned museums. Their personal collection of Old Masters is wonderful, and their special exhibits merit the word special. Through May 13, 2012, the Frisk is presenting Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting. Nine important Impressionist paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir represent his offerings to the official Paris Salon from the mid-1870s to mid-1880s. Essentially, Renoir was attempting to keep a foot in both camps – the established Salon as well as the up-and-coming Impressionists. The inspiration for the exhibit was a painting in the permanent collection, La Promenade. The rest of the paintings have been assembled from around the world: Cardiff, London, Paris as well as Chicago, Washington, Columbus, and Boston. A video that accompanied the exhibit showed how The Umbrellas (first time on view in the United States for over 100 years), which was completed in two stages four years apart, demonstrated the development of Renoir’s technique. The figures on the right side of the foreground were totally different than the later completed figures. Also highlighted is Renoir’s skill painting fabric of many different textures that arose from his interest in fashion. For those of us who never lived during the Belle-Époque, the exhibit materials also explain subtleties of the clothing customs of the time; whether a glove was on or off had deep significance.
Today’s expression, en pied (ehn peeay) refers to a full-length portrait. Pied means foot. For a full-length mirror the expression is slightly different, de plain-pied. If you can’t make it to New York, the exhibition videos are on the Frick web site along with information about each of the works and a virtual tour.