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Renoir's Sour Period

Renoir, as one "Renoir's Sour Period" research paper has noted, went through an artistic crisis.  He himself spoke in 1883 of having come to the end of Impressionism and of having realized that he didn’t know either how to paint or how to draw. He had arrived at what he was later to term his “sour period.” He went to Italy where he saw, and was greatly impressed by, the work of Raphael. He came home from Italy with a sense that the Impressionists had become too preoccupied with colorist effects for their own sake, and that they paid to much attention to surface effects and not enough attention to form.

Renoir's Sour Period

The “sour period” paintings aimed to correct these problems, but Renoir’s handling of color, though it changed somewhat, was not the most noticeable difference in the paintings of this period.  What was clearly different was the painting of form.  This new approach to form was somewhat severe. It can be very clearly seen in the Portrait of Charles and Georges Durand Ruel of 1884.  Here the forms of the two men are so sharply delineated and so clearly modeled that they seem to leap out of the Impressionist background behind them. There is a dry quality to this and several other of the paintings of the “sour period.”

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