Okay, so technically, it was a lecture/book signing, but I was too cheap to buy the book, even in paperback. In my defense, it’s not really my sort of read. The author, Susan Vreeland, is sort of a poor man’s Tracy Buckland. What Buckland did for Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vreeland has done for Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Basically, they try to get inside the artist’s head as he creates a masterwork. And if offered a chance to get inside Renoir’s head, you should do it. (Whereas you never go inside Van Gogh’s head, no matter how many times it’s offered.)
Vreeland read more passages of the book than I’d have liked (remember, my internal Lost clock was ticking), but I found the lecture pretty interesting. I learned quite a bit about Renoir. For example, he was a bit of a hottie:
Of course, lessening my view of him a little was the fact that he seems to have slept with most of his female subjects. Show a little restraint, man.
I also learned about all the people in the painting. This being France, most of them had at least a little air of scandal. (Unlike, say, America, in which most people have a little air of Starbucks.)
I mean, you just know the standing guy in the straw hat is planning something. To make crepes, maybe. Or lose a war.
While Vreeland seemed to be better suited to writing than speaking, I may be biased. She encouraged those who hadn’t to check out the original painting at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. And we know how I feel about the Phillips Collection.
I like to think that if Renoir had had business cards, he would have had the hyphenate "Impressionist/Hottie" under his name. He seems cool like that.