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a lot of people know about Impressionism but very few people know about the crisis of Impressionism and this painting is a great example of that crisis we're in the Philadelphia Art Museum looking at Agust Renoir's the large bathers this is a painting that is not impressionist and you're absolutely right that really in a sense were Jack's Impressionism here we have one of the leaders of the impressionist movement just a decade later turning his back and saying no I want to create classical nudes exactly and part of the impetus for this was seeing Saros painting of the bathers at asnières and lagron shot both paintings which took Impressionists subject matter leisure in the city but made of that subject something really timeless and gave them a sense of permanence and a sense of being composed and thought out which were things you couldn't say about impressionist paintings impressionist paintings look like they were done quickly and on the spot in fact Renoir made numerous studies for this painting some large-scale drawings and spent three years preparing this canvas the other influence is so important to keep in mind is that the artist had finally gotten to Italy he'd gone to Rome he had seen Raphael he had seen classical art in fact he went to Pompeii and has seen ancient fresco and unlike Impressionism which is seeking the fleeting here he's reversed himself and now he's seeking to create a painting that is an expression of eternal beauty that's right if this is the crisis of Impressionism this turning away from the fleeting moment that's caught rather quickly with sketchy brushstrokes and the desire to paint something that is more timeless and more permanent and more connected to the traditions of art but the result is a very curious painting on the one hand you've got this very tight handling of these figures you can really see an emphasis now on contour but it's been placed in this landscape that is absolutely modern very much a product of the 19th century of Impressionism it looks like an impressionist landscape in the background it really does and so this painting is a kind of a collage of styles and of intentions yeah this is truly a crisis first of all you have the subject of the nude which is an important subject in art history especially since the Renaissance and the question of how do you create a modern new to something that Baudelaire asked in his famous essay the painter of modern life these don't look like classical figures if you look at their faces they look like Parisian women so we know that we're not looking at a renaissance painting but it does end up being a clash of styles well Renoir is rejecting not only his own Impressionism he's rejecting the pathway that had been offered by MANET 20 years earlier in paintings like Olympia or indigenous alert the incongruity of the nude in the modern world so MANET when he gives us Olympia gives us an image of a nude where we feel the tension of that tradition coming into the modern world we're aware of that problem and that Renoir trying to erase that problem I think he is I think he's trying to reclaim young women flitting about in a park-like setting which is an absurdity and yet he's trying to suggest that within the veil of art this is somehow a reasonable proposition but this highlights for me is the importance of form if you think about Suzanne painting the subject matter at the end of his life in his great bay there series or if you think about daguan other artists of that generation picking up on this traditional subject of bathers wave that they apply paint is radically modern and the problem with this painting of course is that Ren was really retreating into the path it's a profoundly conservative painting in the way that it's painted but it does speak to the tensions between tradition and modernity that were so present at the end of the 19th century this painting is absolutely a product of its day there's a feeling that Impressionism went too far leaving behind all of the seriousness of art history to embrace the fleeting and the momentary so if we look at this canvas despite all of the weighty issues that we're discussing these are figures that are meant to do in a sense speak to essential for validate that the 18th century that recalls the late Rococo you might think of Boucher although this is much more tightly rendered and so it's this sort of odd combination of the subject of the 18th century with references to the style of the 16th century and perhaps even of the ancient world and it is really this kind of funny collage that speaks to the 19th century's ability to harvest ideas and styles from history and to bring them into the modern world