The signs read: “Take ’em down! Renoir sucks!” and “We’re not iconoclasts[;] Renoir just sucks at painting!”
Led by Max Geller, a handful of people protested Monday outside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
The fact that paintings by renowned French Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir are hanging in the museum.
In April, Geller started a petition on the White House website urging President Obama to “remove all of the literally awful Renoir paintings hanging in the National Gallery in Washington DC.”
It accrued 15 signatures and was “archived” owing to insufficient support.
He also created a “renoir sucks at painting” Instagram account.
Hoping to determine the source of Geller’s passion, we called him up and asked him three questions.
Why do you hate Renoir?
“I hate Renoir because he is the most overrated artist east, west, north and south of the river Seine. I think in real life trees are beautiful and the human eyeball conveys emotional force. If you took his word for it, trees would be a collection of disgusting, green squiggly lines and eyeballs would be jet black as if they were colored by sharpies. In real life trees are beautiful; Renoir just sucks at painting.”
Do you also hate the other French Impressionists: Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Gustave Caillebotte?
“No, and I resent the question. It’s not a misunderstanding of the ethos of Impressionism. I get that it’s not representative, but if you look at it you get that it is a beautiful impression of the information that the artist is translating. [Renoir’s] is a very bleak, nightmarish one filled with cadavers, pallid skin and chauvinism.”
Follow-up (doesn’t count as a question): What about his famous painting Luncheon of the Boating Party? It’s light and airy, no cadavers.
“Yeah, I know the exact painting you’re talking about. It’s a lot of carefree, feckless, sharpie-eyed white people. At the Museum of Fine Arts where we protested, every painting including the Impressionists’ were breathtakingly beautiful — except for Renoir’s.”
NPR’s Susan Stamberg, who knows a thing or two about Renoir and French Impressionist painting, says Renoir’s early paintings were “wonderful,” and his later works were “saccharine,” but not as good because his hands were crippled by arthritis. It sounds like you aren’t a fan of any of his paintings?
“By comparison, his early paintings were better than his late paintings. I do think there is a noticeable decline, but I don’t think any of them belong in museums. They are overrated and overvalued. There are plenty of dead, white males and their male gaze in museums already. You don’t need the wack, craven mediocrity of Renoir.”