by Robert L. Herbert, Auguste Renoir
These surprising texts were written in 1883-84, when Renoir hoped to found an exhibition society grouping all the crafts, and around 1910, when he prepared several drafts of a preface to a French translation of Cennino Cennini’s medieval treatise on the arts. Robert L. Herbert has uncovered Renoir’s “Grammar of Art,” long believed lost, and has disproved the idea that his reading of Cennini was related to his trip to Italy in 1881. Renoir provides a walking tour of Paris with abundant references to specific buildings exhibiting the Second Empire architecture he found so despicable. He examines academic art, modern industry, and how together they undermine the values of craft and individuality. And he insists that good art like nature never achieves perfect geometry or symmetry but is unregimented, “natural.” Herbert discusses Renoir’s aesthetic in the context of the flow of ideas on the decorative arts at the time and reassesses the artist in the light of these lively rediscovered writings.