Three clips from 1915 and one from 1919 show legendary artists within their celebrated environments—Claude Monet creating work in his garden at Giverny, Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting at home, Auguste Rodin sculpting in his studio, and Edgar Degas taking a leisurely stroll through the streets of Paris. Each of the silent short films showcases the artists instead of the work we have come to associate them with, cameras focusing on the men rather than canvas or sculpture. The cinematic choice is an interesting one, giving us a peak at the techniques and facial expressions of the artist instead of any expression made within the work.
Claude Monet – Filmed Painting Outdoors (1915)
Claude Monet (1840–1926)
In the video just above, you can see a 74-year-old Claude Monet — also at quite an advanced age for the time — doing a bit of outdoor painting in his garden at Giverny in 1915, the very year we saw Degas strolling past us with his hat and umbrella.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Filmed Painting at Home (1919)
Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)
You may never look at a painting by Pierre-August Renoir in quite the same way again after seeing this three-minute film. It didn’t show in his artwork, but Renoir suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis during the last three decades of his life. He worked in constant pain, right up until the day he died.
In this rare footage from 1915 we see the 74-year-old master seated at his easel, applying paint to a canvas while his youngest son Claude, 14, stands by to arrange the palette and place the brush in his father’s permanently clenched hand. By the time the film was made Renoir could no longer walk, even with crutches. He depended on others to move him around in a wheelchair. His assistants would scroll large canvases across a custom-made easel, so that the seated painter could reach different areas with his limited arm movements. But there were times when the pain was so bad he was essentially paralyzed.
Auguste Rodin – Filmed Sculpting in his Studio (1915)
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
Here, you can see several shots of the sculptor Auguste Rodin in action, also in 1915, two years before his death, as Mike Springer previously wrote here. The clip’s first sequence “shows the artist at the columned entrance to an unidentified structure, followed by a brief shot of him posing in a garden somewhere. The rest of the film, beginning at the 53-second mark, was clearly shot at the palatial, but dilapidated, Hôtel Biron, which Rodin was using as a studio and second home.”
Edgar Degas – Filmed Walking Down a Paris Street (1915)
Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
History’s most respected painters all gave their lives to their art. We can almost call that a requirement of the artist who wishes their work to attain immortality, but as for the mortal artists themselves — well, they’ve all got to get out of the house sometime or another. That rule held even for Edgar Degas, 19th- and early 20th-century painter, sculptor, and reluctant impressionist whose body of work commands many dedicated exhibitions even in the 21st century. In the clip above, you can see one of his excursions onto the streets of Paris, captured in 1915 with the then-new invention known as the motion picture camera.
Degas, who would die in 1917, had by the time of this walk reached his eighties, having put his artistic work behind him at least three years before. With his longtime residence on rue Victor-Massé just about to go under the wrecking ball, he moved over to Boulevard de Clichy, where he lived out his days walking the streets in the very manner we see in this snippet of film.
Author: Colin Marshall
Image source: hyperallergic.com