This just may demonstrate the truest definition of Impressionism. In L’eglise de Varengeville et les falaises, land meets sea and sky in a bold, mesmerizing display of color and texture on a clear afternoon. Renoir painted this fascinating scene in 1880, at the ripe age of 39. This is generally considered the peak of Renoir’s career, whose most revered paintings were produced in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s. Renoir’s mastery of outdoor light is eloquently rendered here, as is his genius for conveying mood through varying brushstrokes. The land is portrayed with short, impulsive strokes, giving it certain wildness, while the sky and ocean are rendered calm and peaceful with long, gentle washes of color. This ability to capture the explosive sensation is essential to Impressionism and a hallmark of Renoir’s work.
This subject matter was particularly dear to Renoir, which makes the painting especially valuable. Whereas Renoir regularly took portrait commissions to stay financially afloat in Paris, he retreated to the Normandy coast in the summers of 1879 and 1880 to relax and embrace the landscapes that continually inspired him. The bold, rich hues that comprise the windswept cliff denote the passion with which Renoir approached this scenery. During these summers, Renoir was housed by his important patron, Paul-Antoine Berard at his country château in Wargemont.
Without question, Renoir had the remarkable ability to translate the ordinary into the extraordinary. Working closely with Monet, he began experimenting with the portrayal of light and its effect on his canvases. The youngest member of the Impressionist movement, the astute painter recognized that a subject was constantly changing due to the dynamic effects of light on color. As is visible when examining his work, Renoir captured a particular moment in time, or an “impression” of a scene, rather than a static and overly refined depiction that begs for explanation.
I can’t say enough how much this painting captures the essentials of Impressionism. Please give me a call, I would love to discuss the painting with you.