It was a sizzling day in the South of France last June,
when we arrived in Cagnes sur Mer
to take in the old farmhouse & gardens of Auguste Renoir
~ his beloved “Les Collettes”,
where he lived with his family
for the final twelve years of his life.
The estate is perched on top of a hill
with incredible views to the Cap d’Antibes
As we ascend towards the main building,
we pass under the shadow of olive trees,
the kind Northern girl me has hardly seen
~ centuries old that you can’t resist brushing with your hand
to feel those enticing grooves, lifelines on the bark
~ etchings of the passing years,
like lines on a dear elderly face
with wisdom concealed in the depths.
It’s a surprisingly quiet afternoon,
as we walk through the main entrance
~ just one other couple & the two of us.
We enter an unspoken pact to keep our distance,
as if all here by ourselves,
ready to hear the walls speak.
And the walls do tell their stories
~ in unison with the peeling layers of paint,
the far-flung ceilings,
the sense of stillness,
the simply and sparsely furnished rooms,
that caressing gold-tinged milky light
that floods through the vast windows
& fills you to the core.
I swear I can feel it now.
Renoir’s wheelchair & easel in his atelier
are reminders of the pain & beauty that intermingled,
that never ruled each other out.
The creativity & persistence.
He painted until his death,
even with his hands curled due to arthritis
and being left in a wheelchair after a stroke.
He looked for new ways of expression
~ changed his technique,
an assistant would place the brush in his bandaged hand.
He used a moving canvas to be able to make larger works.
And he began to create sculptures with the help of a young artist.
“The pain passes, but the beauty remains”
~ he is quoted as saying.
“The work of art must seize upon you,
wrap you up in itself and carry you away.
It is the means by which the artist conveys his passion.
It is the current which he puts forth
which sweeps you along in his passion.”
– Pierre-Auguste Renoir
[All pictures shot last summer
at Les Collettes aka Musée Renoir,
visitor information here.]