The Skiff - by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The term "Impressionism" is realty a misnomer for this type of painting. It was originally intended as a term of derision by academic minds, bewildered and antagonized by the sketchiness of the drawing, the shower of high-keyed brush strokes, the artless compositions, and the general feeling of evanescence. Yet lmpressionism~rs~anything but casual impression (as the picture Madame Monet Lying on a Sofa may be described); it is, as may be seen in the present plate, a thoroughgoing, concentrated analysis of luminosity in terms of color. Everything else in the painter's bag of tricks is ruthlessly sacrificed to this preoccupation. And far from being "formless," as many critics still maintain, what the Impressionists devised was a new artistic form, amazingly consistent in every element, every intention.

Renoir was not often as thoroughly Impressionist as he is here. Cezanne is supposed to have said of Monet, the arch-Impressionist, "He is only an eye, but my God, what an eye!" Renoir was too much in love with people and with nature to be "only an eye" for very long. He worked as an Impressionist when the occasion suggested it, and he became one of the greatest; but life had many other songs for him, and this accounts for the variety of style and subject we see in the plates preceding and following this one in our collection.