We all have things that we’re passionate about, and whether it matters to others or not, all that’s important is that it matters to you. That being said, roughly two weeks ago some people gathered in Boston to voice their opinions regarding the works of one of the most prolific painters in art history.
Yes. Some people hate Renoir with a burning passion. Pierre-Auguste Renoir is considered one of the greatest painters of the Impressionist movement, but some say otherwise. Now, I’m very indifferent toward Renoir and his works, so I think I’ll succeed in being as impartial as possible. About six months ago, a man from Brooklyn named Max Geller started sharing his dislike of Renoir through Instagram under the name @Renoir_sucks_at_painting. And just two weeks ago, Geller rallied his forces and marched on one of the greatest institutions that houses the work of this deceased scourge of the art world: the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The anti-Renoir protesters held up signs, claiming, to imitate the Westboro Baptist Church, that “God Hates Renoir”, and that Renoir’s work is “aesthetic terrorism”.
This was only the first act of a planned series of protests. Just last weekend, a group of anti-Renoir protesters appeared on the steps of my favorite museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Not only did the protesters receive criticism, but they actually inspired counter-protesters to meet them on the steps of the Met. These counter-protesters even went as far as to compare the anti-Renoir group to the Nazis, pointing out that the Nazis also slandered various artists throughout Germany, labeling them as degenerates. I’m not too sure, but I don’t exactly see a difference between calling someone’s work “degenerate”, and calling someone’s work “aesthetic terrorism”.
But Geller is right in some sense, that people shouldn’t just blindly accept the norms of previous generations. There are certain artists who I like, and ones that I couldn’t care less about. For instance, I really enjoy the works of J.M.W. Turner, but I don’t really like those of Mark Rothko. Geller explains why he and his followers hate Renoir so much: “In real life, trees are beautiful. If you take Renoir’s word for it, you’d think trees are just a collection of green squiggles.” But Geller’s opponents explain that those ‘green squiggles’ show the whole point of Impressionism. Impressionism sought to stray away from realistic depictions of life and tried to show how the artist sees the world.
And, in Renoir’s defense, the second version of Bal du moulin de la Galette sold at Sotheby’s New York in 1990 for $78.1 million. That sum of money would be equivalent to approximately $141 million in 2015. This makes Renoir’s most expensive work more valuable than Peter Paul Rubens’s Massacre of the Innocents, Vincent Van Gogh’s Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers, and Pablo Picasso’s Garçon à la pipe. So, I don’t think that someone would spend $78.1 million on a trashy painting if Max Geller is right.