Pierre Auguste Renoir was a late nineteen- century French impressionist painter whose works were often ridiculed throughout his life, because of his sensuous celebration of women and nature. He was considered to be one of the most famous artists of his generation, due to his representation sensuality and pleasure in his paintings. When his paintings were first exhibited, they were considered to be shocking and culturally taboo, however after time society became more accepting of Renoir s style and his work overall. "The Apple Seller" painted in 1890, which is now showcased at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The painting depicts a commercial transaction between a peasant woman and an upper class woman and her children. Throughout this paper I will describe the formal properties of this painting such as composition, line and color, texture, space and volume and use of light. The painting as a triangular composition, containing all four figures, they are in turn drawn together within a harmonious ensemble. The painting itself depicts an older peasant woman selling fruit to what seems to be a middle class woman and her children. The painting is set deep in the forest, where the mother and her children are enjoying a pleasant spring afternoon. The blurred background of the piece brings the figures to the front of the painting creating a more personal situation for each viewer.
Incidentally, this creates the effect of a personal link between the viewer and the figures in the painting. The peasant woman is depicted in plain clothing by using very dull colors; on the other hand the wealthier woman is painted in more vibrant colors to describe her social status. Overall, the composition seems to be a commentary of the social circumstances of the time. The color and line are both a very bold issues within the context of this painting. The painting as a whole is like a gradation.
The background tone is very light the middle ground has a neutral value, and the foreground is very dark. There is no real line in the painting; it is only described by a darker tone in front of the lighter one, giving a surreal feeling because of the combination of the deep color and the blurred paint. Renoir s color range on the painting is strictly earth toned, with minimal use of black and white. The color being very bold contradicts the serenity of the composition itself. Renoir s brushwork is very painterly, because he uses a sweeping motion to create a blurred or fuzzed effect.
This method works very well with the landscape portion of the painting, however the figures were handled in the same way, which is a major downfall to the composition because it lacks realism of the figure. The representation of the figure with this technique, is very minimal making the subject unclear to the viewer. In my opinion, the depiction of the space on the canvas is very weak. In much of the painting the space seems very flat and lacking of volume. However, in some areas of the painting such as the handling of the trees and the dog, Renoir created a great presence of space and volume.
The figures clothing such as the peasants shirt and the older woman s dress, have good contrast of color which also creates a sense of volume. However Renoir seems to be indecisive with the rest of the composition leading me to believe that the painting might be unfinished. This is mainly seen in the foreground on the children s clothing and the area in which they are sitting. The perspective seems to be incorrect, which loses the viewer in the space in front of them.
Overall space and volume obviously were not Renoir s main concern in this painting. The use of light radiates the bliss of the mother and her children. The peasant being in shadow represents her melancholy mood. The contrast of the mother and children the peasant is a very strong aspect of the composition. The darkness of the peasant relates to her impoverished social status of being in servitude to the higher classed woman and children beaming with light and happiness. The darkness of the peasant brings her to the front of the painting, and seemingly below the woman and her children, This makes the woman and her children seem like they are on a pedestal and not really involved with the realities of the disgruntled peasant.
This in turn reinforces the meaning of the composition of social strife between the classes. In conclusion, Renoir does an excellent interpretation of the social controversy of the time. The use of color, line, texture, space / volume and light all play their own part within the composition s meaning. The composition is so well thought out that any viewer is led through a journey of social classism and the downfalls of different social stature. The painting shows the ignorance of the upper class from the looks on the mother and children s faces to the backbreaking posture of the peasant. The mother and children have almost a snobbish feel to them, which emphasizes the clash of the two classes shown in the painting.
Overall, the painting is a very accurate description of the social turmoil of the time.