The Swing (Renoir, 1876)


 

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BEFORE THE ABOVE

IMAGE TITLED “Ingres Princess” 

I.                    Introduction: Artists’ Motivations


This course begins with a comparison of three works of art: Ingres’ Princess, (1853), Renoir’s The Swing, (1876), and Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror, (1932).

The content in Ingres’ painting of the Princess is very recognizable. An elegant, richly attired woman is shown with expensive jewelry of gold and pearls, a royal blue ball gown, a pair of white gloves, and a gold-bordered shawl slung casually across the richly upholstered golden chair. There are a couple of reasons why we can so easily recognize the scene. The figure is painted quite naturalistically with the correct number of arms, eyes, nose, mouth, fingers etc. Her clothing is of beautiful silks and laces, and the setting is one we can easily relate to - a room with decorative wall moldings and a chair.

Now for Renoir’s painting. Only painted 23 years later, the artist’s attention to detail is much different. A woman stands holding the ropes of a very low swing. Two men speak to her, one with his back towards us, and a little girl stands by the tree to the left. Based on the background, we can safely conclude that these figures are in a park on a sunny day as evidenced by the puddles of sunlight falling upon the ground and the woman’s dress. There are a couple of reasons why we can so easily recognize this scene: the figures are painted quite naturalistically (again, they meet our expectations as to the correct number of arms, legs, etc.), their clothing is quite common, and the setting is one we can easily relate to, being that we’ve all been outside on a sunny day.