Happy Birthday Pierre-Auguste Renoir

On 25 February, City Connect celebrates the anniversary of the birth of French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, Renoir has been described by art critic Herbert Read as “the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.” Read Renoir’s biography below to discover more about the life and work of this great artist.

Self Portrait of Renoir, 1875

Biography

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on 25 February 1841 in Limoges, France, the child of a working class family. As a boy, he worked in a porcelain factory where his drawing talents led to him being chosen to paint designs on fine china. He also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and decorations on fans before he enrolled in art school. During those early years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters.

In 1862, he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet. At times during the 1860s, he did not have enough money to buy paint. Although Renoir first started exhibiting paintings at the Paris Salon in 1864, recognition did not come for another ten years, due, in part, to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.

Renoir experienced his initial acclaim when six of his paintings were hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. In the same year, two of his works were shown with Durand-Ruel in London. On 15 January 1882 Renoir met the composer Richard Wagner at his home in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir painted Wagner’s portrait in just thirty-five minutes.

Renoir’s paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated colour, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects. In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of color, so that his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.

His initial paintings show the influence of the colorism of Eugène Delacroix and the luminosity of Camille Corot. He also admired the realism of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles theirs in his use of black as a color. As well, Renoir admired Edgar Degas’ sense of movement. Another painter Renoir greatly admired was the 18th century master François Boucher.

A fine example of Renoir’s early work, and evidence of the influence of Courbet’s realism, is Diana, 1867. Ostensibly a mythological subject, the painting is a naturalistic studio work, the figure carefully observed, solidly modeled, and superimposed upon a contrived landscape. If the work is still a ‘student’ piece, already Renoir’s heightened personal response to female sensuality is present. The model was Lise Tréhot, then the artist’s mistress and inspiration for a number of paintings.

In the late 1860s, through the practice of painting light and water en plein air (in the open air), he and his friend Claude Monet discovered that the colour of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected colour of the objects surrounding them, an effect today known as diffuse reflection. Several pairs of paintings exist in which Renoir and Monet, working side-by-side, depicted the same scenes (La Grenouillère, 1869).

One of the best known Impressionist works is Renoir’s 1876 Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette). The painting depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people, at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre, close to where he lived.

Bal du moulin de la Galette, 1876

The works of his early maturity were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the mid 1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women, such as The Bathers, which was created during 1884–87. It was a trip to Italy in 1881, when he saw works by Raphael and other Renaissance masters, that convinced him that he was on the wrong path, and for the next several years he painted in a more severe style, in an attempt to return to classicism. This is sometimes called his “Ingres period”, as he concentrated on his drawing and emphasized the outlines of figures.

After 1890, however, he changed direction again, returning to thinly brushed colour to dissolve outlines as in his earlier work. From this period onward he concentrated especially on monumental nudes and domestic scenes, fine examples of which are Girls at the Piano, 1892, and Grandes Baigneuses, 1887. The latter painting is the most typical and successful of Renoir’s late, abundantly fleshed nudes.

Girls at the Piano, 1892

A prolific artist, he made several thousand paintings. The warm sensuality of Renoir’s style made his paintings some of the most well-known and frequently-reproduced works in the history of art. The single largest collection of his works – 181 paintings in all – is at the Barnes Foundation, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Renoir’s work has been very popular with the American market, as is demonstrated by the large number of his paintings in American collections. In 1990, Bal au moulin de la Galette sold for $78.1 million.

Renoir died in the French village of Cagnes-sur-Mer on 3 December 1919.

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Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Joyeux Anniversaire Isabelle Adjani

On June 27, City Connect celebrates the birthday of French actress Isabelle Adjani who has recently been chosen as the new face for jewellery house Poiray for their forthcoming international campaigns. Poiray explained their choice of the leading actress as their ambassador saying she is “an icon to embody femininity, sensuality and the sensuality of these collections”.

Isabelle Adjani for Poiray

Isabelle Adjani is the only actress in the history of French cinema to get five César Awards for Best Actress, for the films Possession (1981), One Deadly Summer (1983), Camille Claudel (1988), La Reine Margot (1994) and La Journée de la Jupe (2009). She was also given a double Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award in 1981 and a Berlin Film Festival Best Actress Award in 1989. She also received two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. Adjani has appeared in 30 films since 1970. She performs in French, English and German.

Joyeux Anniversaire Isabelle Adjani!

Biography

Adjani was born in an immigrant neighborhood Gennevilliers, Hauts-de-Seine, a suburb of Paris to an Algerian father of Turkish origin from Constantine, Algeria, Mohammed Cherif Adjani. Her father was a soldier in the French Army in World War II. Her mother Augusta, called “Gusti”, was German. She grew up bilingual, speaking German and French fluently. After winning a school recitation contest, she began acting in amateur theater by the age of twelve. At the age of 14, she starred in her first motion picture Le Petit bougnat (1970).

She first gained fame as a classical actress for her interpretation of Agnès, the main female role in Molière’s L’École des femmes, but soon left the Comédie Française she had joined in 1972, to pursue a film career. After minor roles in several films, she enjoyed modest success in the 1974 film La Gifle (or The Slap). The following year, she landed her first major role in François Truffaut’s The Story of Adèle H. Critics enthused over her performance, with Pauline Kael calling her acting talents “prodigious”. She was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar and offers for roles in Hollywood films, such as Walter Hill’s 1978 crime thriller The Driver. She then played Lucy in Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake of Nosferatu (1979).

In 1981, Adjani received the Cannes Film Festival’s best actress award for the Merchant Ivory film Quartet based on the novel by Jean Rhys, and for the horror film Possession. The following year, she received her first César Award for Possession, in which she portrays a woman having a nervous breakdown. In 1983, she won her second César, for her depiction of a vengeful woman in the blockbuster One Deadly Summer. That same year, she released the French pop album Pull Marine written and produced by Serge Gainsbourg. She starred in a music video for the hit title song Pull Marine, which was directed by Luc Besson.

In 1988, she co-produced and starred in a biopic of the sculptor Camille Claudel. She received her third César and second Oscar nomination for her role in the film, which was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Following this publicity, she was chosen by People magazine as one of the ’50 Most Beautiful People’ in the world in 1990. Her fourth César win was for the 1994 film La Reine Margot, an ensemble epic directed by Patrice Chéreau. Below is the wedding scene from Adjani’s acclaimed film La Reine Margot.

In 2009, she won her fifth César in La Journée de la Jupe playing a teacher in a tough school who holds her class hostage. In 2010, Isabelle Adjani starred once more opposite Gérard Depardieu playing the role of the ghost of his old flame, killed in a far-off motorcycle accident, in the French road movie Mammuth.

When talking about her work, Isabelle Adjani has been reported as saying: “I like films that rest in the memory so I try and choose parts which have some kind of social or emotional force. For me, being an actress is not just a profession but a profession of faith”.

In 1980 she had a son, Barnabé Nuytten with cinematographer Bruno Nuytten. Adjani was romantically linked to actor Warren Beatty from 1986 to 1987, and Daniel Day Lewis from 1989 to 1995. He left her during her pregnancy with their son, Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, who was born in 1995. Adjani was also engaged to composer Jean Michel Jarre; they broke up in 2004.

In 2011 she was named ‘The Most Beautiful Woman in Film’ by the Los Angeles Times magazine. However the actress has faced constant claims about her use of plastic surgery. In an interview with Gala magazine in 2011, she admitted using anything she could to make her look younger, from Botox injections to hyaluronic acid. She said, “I am a follower of hyaluronic acid – always in small doses of course – to fill wrinkles and fine lines”.

Parisians are now used to seeing her wandering around the city in oversized dark glasses and large headscarves, maintaining a low-key public profile. Her ash-white face is said to often look completely frozen, while her pronouncements can be equally eccentric. It has led to a perception among many in France that, like a lot of sensitive artists, she lives in her own world.

The popular stand-up comedian Florence Foresti often potrays Adjani as a Greta Garbo-type recluse who constantly says: “Je ne suis pas folle, vous savez” (translated as “You know, I’m not mad”). Here is an example of Florence Foresti portraying Isabelle Adjani on the French TV programme On N’est Pas Couché with Laurent Ruquier:

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Video reproduced from YouTube / maxime236 and YouTube / Vinsugoy
Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Pichet – French Cuisine with Irish Charm

Pichet is a friendly French bistro restaurant based on Dublin’s busy Trinity Street in the heart of the city. Pichet opened in 2009 and is owned by Nick Munier and Stephen Gibson. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal with stylish blue leather chairs and dark wood tables. Pichet has a colourful and interesting menu with wonderful presentation and exceptional taste and quality. The wine list is very reasonably priced and is concise but includes something for everyone’s taste. Although there is lots of choice on the A La Carte menu, if you’re going there for lunch, why not try the special Fixed Price Lunch menu which is only €25 for three courses between 12pm and 3pm. Here’s a sample of what’s on offer:

Starter – Salmon Fishcake with Pickled Cucumber, Watercress and Tartare Sauce
The fishcake was plump and succulent with a decent amount of fish compared to potato. There is nothing worse than a fishcake that’s all cake and no fish so Pichet got top marks for their tasty version of an old classic. The addition of the pickled cucumber was a nice modern twist but it was reassuring to have that familiar favourite, tartare sauce, served on the side. The size of this starter is slightly larger than you would expect which was great for me as my heart tends to sink when I’m served tiny portions!

Main – Daube of Beef with Sauerkraut and Colcannon Mash
The meat was meltingly tender and full of flavour. The sauerkraut balanced the richness of the daube nicely with its tangy aftertaste. No prizes for guessing that the mash would be colcannon – we are in Ireland after all! Again this was a nice mansized portion which was true to the nature of this relaxed yet stylish bistro. I recommended trying the New Zealand 2007 Pinot Noir from the Lake Chalice Estate which is a perfect complement to this dish.

Dessert – Rhubarb Cheesecake with Tangerine Jelly
An interesting take on the classic cheesecake. The dessert is served in a glass instead of on a plate with the different elements of the cheesecake piled on on top of another and topped off with a crisp tuile biscuit. The tangerine jelly was interspersed through the fruity creaminess like hidden gems of orange wobbly. A perfectly pleasant end to a perfectly pleasant meal.

The staff at Pichet are charming and friendly but the attentiveness can sometimes falter when the restaurant is really busy. However it is never too difficult to catch the eye of one of the waiting staff. Getting a table for lunch tends not to be a problem but reservations are certainly recommended for dinner. The next time you find yourself in Dublin don’t forget to visit Pichet and try their delicious French cuisine served with plenty of Irish charm.

Pichet Restaurant Café and Bar
14/15 Trinity Street
Dublin 2
Ireland
T: +353 1 677 1060
E: info@pichetrestaurant.com

Images courtesy of the author

Incendies Fires Up an Uncomfortable Storm

Our City Connect film critic, Louis Maurati, has previewed Incendies which comes out in the UK on 24 June 2011. He gives us a taster of the film without giving too much away and also addresses its accolades which, after hearing him talk about the film, it truly deserves.

Incendies, a French Canadian film, struck a strong chord with the American Oscar Awards Academy when it was officially nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. The film didn’t end taking home the prize, but it did rack up eight awards at Canada’s Genie Film awards, including Best Picture and has garnered international acclaim.

Denis Villeneuve, the film’s director, is known for taking risks with his filmmaking. His last film, Polytechnique, told the very controversial story of the true events of the Montreal Massacre in 1989. This time around, with Incendies, Villeneuve adapts a story from stage to film. The stage play was Wajdi Mouawad’s epic 2003 play.

The film is centred around Montreal Arab-Canadian twins who have learned through their mother’s will that their father is still alive and that they have a brother that they never knew existed. The mother leaves them with clues as to how to locate both, but they must travel to their mother’s homeland, only to learn about their mother’s darkest secrets. The performances are magnificent and the story’s timing between past and present is spot on. The cinematography is also quite beautiful.

Like many films that garnered critical acclaim in 2010, this film is far from uplifting and fluffy. Instead, it is emotionally charged and uncomfortable to watch at times, but you will not soon forget it.

Image reproduced from filmdates.co.uk
Video reproduced from YouTube / eOnefilms