How to Understand a Painting Done by the Master Artist

In a painting, the colours co-exist pronouncing many possible meanings. When we look at a painting, our first reaction would be to the colours and the figures of objects painted. We would like it for its technical side of beauty recreated by painterly skill; and we would love to look closely how the hues and the shades of every colour are depicted in the painting. Space created between the objects and the background would add rhythm in the painting; the volume created by different hues would make the panting lively.

A painting is more than the colours spread on canvas. Here is a master piece painted by August Renoir. It tells a story, if we know about life of Renoir, the master artist of impressionism style of painting. This painting, Dance in the City, is a master piece by Renoir.

The lady painted is Suzanne Valadon, who was an artist herself. She had modelled for Renoir for many of his painting. If we look at the cloth-less women painted by Renoir, we would see how lovely and delicately he had painted the soft skin of the women modeled for him. All the women seem rejoicing their stage of being without clothes, and Renoir had painted the sense of freedom on the faces of these women, too. But in this painting, the story is somewhat different.


If we see the colours and the getups of the lady, in The Dance in City, we see the melodies of colours. The woman looks pleasingly graceful and stylish in appearance, depicting good mannerism. But when we turn our eyes on the face, we can read another story. Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) was a master of impressionism, during his career of forty years. He would not miss celebrating beauty.

But in this painting, the tight-lipped face of the lady is painted unusually featureless or expressionless, or without the usual expression of a woman so dancing. The model is Suzanne who often modeled for Renoir. It is believed that Renoir had some reservations about her, as she was an intellectual woman and Renoir preferred the women who can be docile and submissive. Suzanne was an artist herself, she earned much by posing as model for other artists, too; and above all she would dance with many men and enjoy her life. Here Renoir for unknown reason seems to paint her lifestyle, as if he wanted to punish her!


Renoir had repeated similar theme in his painted titled Dance in Bougival. Here the getups of the woman are more or similar. The man is wearing simple looking dress. The model is again Suzanne; and the desire from Renoir’s side was again to depict her in a serious posture. Look at the tight-lipped face and having no sign of pleasure that a lady would be getting while dancing with a gentleman. Had she been enjoying the dance, her face wold have uplifted instead the bent one. The man looks trying to engage her in the dance with full desire, by making her feeling comfortable with his hands, but the lady seems inattentive to him. This is how Renoir depicted Suzanne.

Before becoming a regular model for the renowned artists of Paris, Suzanne was a dress maker. Naturally she would have designed her dress she put on. There can be another reason for her displeasure. She was believed to be of such a wild nature that she might have disliked her being postured in an intimate act like dancing. This is all an artist like Renoir would depict while painting such a scene; this is the reason why a masterpieces represent the social culture.

In his master piece Dance in The country, the things are different. The theme is the same, a dancing couple. But here the dancing woman is not Suzanne Valadon. The model is Aline Charigot, who would be Renoir’s wife. Before she started modeling and became Renoir’s wife, she led a common woman’s life, sewing clothes and earning her living. Renoir himself praised Aline's dancing. He had once told her son that his mother, Aline, is a good dancer. Thus he belied and thus he painted.

Dance in The country

Aline was believed to be docile and submissive, compared to Suzanne; she was almost a woman Renoir would like. It is beyond doubt that Renoir felt more comfortable with her, and he painted her as a happy woman. If we read the painting with a critical eye, we can see that element in any painting under our observation. However, it is the greatness of an artist that makes a painting so wonderful and the eyes of the viewers' so satisfied.

LOOK HERE FOR : Portraits--Landscapes--Towns

The painting depicted the whole-hearted fun being enjoyed by the dancing couple. Her whole-hearted pleasure is depicted through her widened lips and the shining teeth. Here her face is painted enjoying the scene and the dance. If we look at the pencil sketch of the painting, we may think that her face is also tight-lipped. But in the final painting, Aline looks gorgeous and playful.
Images courtesy: top Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons at middle Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons , Dance in the country Pierre-Auguste Renoir [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons , the Sketch Pierre-Auguste Renoir[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons]

All the three dancing couples shown here represent the lifestyle of e contemporary Paris, and France. Look at the dresses of the women: shining with the light and soft creases tells the wealth they would have possessed. The men have also the gentlemen’s attires. Their style of dancing and the escorting behavior with the ladies brand them as the members of upper class of contemporary society. It is rightly said that the work of an artist represents the society more accurately than the writing of a historian.


I have discussed this subject with Caroline street, my artist friend. She lives in South Africa, growing up influenced by her father who is also an artist (he creates anything from wood i.e. musical instruments to antiques and his pieces can be found throughout the world). Her art 'education' was a living one -the bush- the heat and dust.

Caroline had Described the above story in her own words: I get the 'feeling' that Renoir is somehow trying to possess Suzette, he seems to be overly attentive and almost domineering with the lady, and she seems to be pulling back - she is dancing with him in a prim and proper fashion and 'pulling back', but she is hoping the music will be over soon. The dance with his wife tells a different story - he holds her like an attentive husband should and maybe this was expected in that society, but there is a distance between the embrace - the wife seems to be moving forward into him and he is keeping his distance, whereas with Suzette, he moves his body into hers thereby touching her. And this is intentional, which brings us back to what I said in the first paragraph.

I think he desired Suzette and he certainly is 'the hunter' - but alas his advances were met with a stiff coldness and this must've been like a slap in the face??? The reason for the dislike, you know the whole issue of woman been looked down upon and expected to be submissive (in those days) - she must have been a fairly modern, independent, and like you say, an educated one and was not prepared to subject herself to any kind of bullying!!!

How to Understand a Painting Done by the Master ArtistSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

No comments: