Monday, March 4, 2013

monday thoughts: kitsch

A friend of mine recently visited the Phillips Collection with a friend of hers. My friend stood in front of this Renoir painting, moved and awestruck. She turned to tell her friend how beautiful she found it—and her friend's response was something like, "Ugh, it's so kitschy. You actually like that?" IS it kitschy, my friend asked me a few days later. She really wanted to know: Was her response in bad taste? uneducated? just plain wrong?

I don't think so. First of all, art is totally subjective. One person's "kitsch" is another's masterwork. I might think Renoir is a little sentimental—but that's because I've already seen tons of his hazy, pastel young girls surrounded by flowers, not to mention all the bad reproductions and even worse imitations. But someone else might find them lovely and fresh and just plain pretty (and you know where I stand on pretty: staunchly pro). 

This might be a bad example of "sentimental" Renoir;
after all, I like the straightforwardness of the composition
Rosy-cheeked girls, check. Pastel color scheme, check.
Flowers in a vase, check. Leisure-class activity, check.
But "Luncheon of the Boating Party" *does* appeal to me, in a way that those gauzy girls don't. It's got contrast and intrigue and tension in its composition. You might find it busy and annoying. We're all correct—that's all I'm trying to say.

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