Thursday, July 12, 2007

Proust and Renoir

Julia left a comment (on this post) mentioning an exhibit of Renoir landscapes at the National Gallery of Canada. Renoir landscapes are Proust territory, in a passage about the ways in which great art changes our perception of reality:

Today people of taste tell us that Renoir is a great eighteenth-century painter. But when they say this they forget Time, and that it took a great deal of time, even in the middle of the nineteenth century, for Renoir to be hailed as a great artist. To gain this sort of recognition, an original painter or an original writer follows the path of the occultist. His painting or his prose acts upon us like a course of treatment that is not always agreeable. When it is over, the practitioner says to us, "Now look." And at this point the world (which was not created once and for all, but as often as an original artist is born) appears utterly different from the one we knew, but perfectly clear. Women pass in the street, different from those we used to see, because they are Renoirs, the same Renoirs we once refused to see as women. The carriages are also Renoirs, and the water, and the sky: we want to go for a walk in a forest like the one that, when we first saw it, was anything but a forest — more like a tapestry, for instance, with innumerable shades of color but lacking precisely the colors appropriate to forests. Such is the new and perishable universe that has just been created. It will last until the next geological catastrophe unleashed by a new painter or writer with an original view of the world.

The Guermantes Way, translated by Mark Treharne (New York: Penguin, 2002), 323-24

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comments: 4

JuliaR said...

Oh lovely! It would have been great to have read this back when I was getting my art history degree. But I guess you can't have everything.

While I'm not in a hurry, I'm going to start looking for a copy of "Remembrance of things past" because when I went ot the library to borrow "it", I realized there was no WAY I would be able to read it in a matter of weeks. Plus I have a bunch of other things to do right now, not the least of which is writing something of my own.

Thanks for the quote!

JuliaR said...

That would be "when I go OOT to the library", as I am a Canadian after all, eh. No, it was a typo - I should really learn to type these things with a spell check first.

Michael Leddy said...

There's something about comments that induces typso -- I make them all the time (see?).

My suggestion: Look for the Penguin translations, which for some reason, don't have the overarching title (In Search of Lost Time) on the covers, at least not on the American editions. The Moncrieff-Kilmartin-Enright translation is also (I think) available as a boxed set.

JuliaR said...

Thanks for all the tips! Proust sounds like the sort of reading one would do on a sit-on-the-beach type holiday, the kind I had back in March (where I read Michener's Caribbean because that's what I found on the 25 cent used book table). My next holiday is a bike-to-get-anywhere holiday where we will be using our new tandem, so there won't be much time for reading, unless I master reading while pedalling on the back.