ZDF / Arte

Renoir – Portrait of Changing Times

Auguste Renoir is seen as one of the inventors of impressionism that breaks with centuries of tradition. This new style of painting, as well as the new motifs strike the contemporary public as radically different. Renoir himself however sees his paintings as echoes of an era long past. The film “Renoir – Portrait of Changing Times“ chronicles how the young Renoir is inspired by the paintings from the Rococo Era while working as a porcelain painter in the midst of a changing society. How he bands together with other art students to find a new way of painting for this new time. And how his love of the Old Masters will continue to influence his work. How Renoir paints is shocking enough for his contemporaries. But then there’s who he paints. Neither society nobles, nor gods from mythology. Just ordinary Parisians having a nice Sunday out on the boulevards of Montmartre or along the banks of the river Seine. Renoir’s impressionistic paintings are monuments to modern life in the Paris of the 1870ies and depict a time shortly after war and civil war and the revolutionary change from the Second Empire to the Third French Republic. Compared with the paintings of “fête galante” from the French Rococo period of the 18th century they seem to simultaneously echo a long-gone era. In Linn Sackarnd’s documentary we will get to know a revolutionary painter who – in the face of great artistic and social upheaval – refers back to old French traditions. The film takes us to the points of origin of Renoir’s masterpieces, searches for his Rococo references and puts his work in perspective with contemporary photographs to fully grasp impressionism. As his son later wrote, “Renoir loved fairy tales. The everyday was like a fairy tale to him”. Like the imaginary fairylike world of Rococo-Painting Renoir’s impressionist works are not depictions of reality but a fiction of timeless beauty.

A Film by: Linn Sackarnd
Director of Photography: Jérôme Colin
Editor: Nina Mühlenkamp
A production of 3B-Produktion
Commissioned by ZDF In cooperation with ARTE
(c)2022 ZDF/3B-Produktion