Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

August 22, 2011

Big Girls in Art: You Still Can’t Make Me Like Renoir

Filed under: Art — Miss Plumcake @ 7:03 am

Nope. It’s not going to happen.

Appreciate, admire, regard…all that good stuff, but I just don’t like Pierre-August Renoir’s paintings and you can’t make me.

It’s like Jane Austen. I’m not saying they weren’t highly talented individuals very important to the this and that, it’s just that I’d rather go out to an antique store, find a telephone that actually has a cord and then hang myself with it rather than spend an hour subjected to their individual, or indeed collected, works.

BUT, I know how many of you gals liked the big girls in art feature and I’m always glad when I see plus size women painted beautifully in any style so I thought I’d offer you a handful of Renoir’s portraits, mostly from his later years 1914 and on, featuring some of his larger models.

The first portrait is of Austrian actress Tilla Durieux who at the time was married to a prominent art dealer in Paris.

Nice job if you can get it.

The second –and perhaps my favorite– is of his longtime muse Gabrielle Renard, who just so happened to be his childrens’ nanny and his wife Aline’s cousin.

I don’t know whether he had an affair with her, but can you IMAGINE the fights?

“Pierre, WHY is the nanny naked in the studio again? I thought you were doing landscapes this week!”

Next there are several portraits of the mysterious woman labeled just as Andrée. Could it be actress and Impressionists’ darling Ellen Andrée?

It seems a good guess as Renoir definitely painted her often in their younger days, these portraits all show a voluptuous woman with a full, almost carnal, mouth. Other paintings and photographs of the actress show her to have very thin, tight lips.

Ellen Andrée would have been in her 60’s by the time these portraits were painted, not that any portraitist has ever shied away from shaving off a few years –or decades– from his subject.

Finally we’ve got some bathers.

You can actually blame the Hot Latin Boy for this post because it started with this painting.

Back story? Why sure.

The fella and I hadn’t seen each other in donkey’s ears and because your pal Plummy does like to make her entrances –I’m glad you all were sitting down for that shock– when I first appeared to him at Villa Plumcake it was at dusk, wending my way in white dress and gossamer thin shawl through a lovely shadowed garden.

I hadn’t seen him in months and I sure as heck wasn’t going to be stared at in the merciless glare of some fluorescent lights or, you know, the sun.

I plucked a single blossom of night blooming jasmine and stuck it behind my ear as the Pacific swallowed the last breaths of light.

He came up, put my hand on his heart so I could feel it beating (apparently that’s A Thing) and said:

“You look like a sílfide

For any of you people who are, you know, normal, you would understand immediately that sílfide is a Spanish cognate for sylph.

I didn’t quite understand, so he tried to explain what he meant and somehow I got it into my head that he meant I looked like a selkie.

No, it didn’t occur to me that perhaps a not-widely-traveled Latin boy’s frame of mythological reference might not include little-known Scottish shape-shifting seal maidens, but it honestly seemed more likely than being called a sylph.

Still does. I’d make a damn fine selkie. Plus I could have a seal fur coat without feeling guilty about it and that would be swell because even Cruella DePlumcake can’t swing that coat.

Anyway, sylphs are to my mind quite thin and willowy as are nymphs so I was pleased to see Renoir’s 1919 work The Nymphs (also called The Great Bathers) featuring women who don’t fit the slender sylph model either.



  1. I can’t get worked up about the Renoirs either good or bad, but I crave the outfit the top model is wearing. Draped bodice check, synched waist check, softly covered upper arms, check….

    I’ve just never been able to pull off the flower behind the ear tho. Roses end up drooping under my chin and gardenia’s – much as I crave the style – end up looking like brown bruised lettuce within minutes.

    Comment by Thea — August 22, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

  2. I’m a plus size lady who simply adores your blog. I’m also an artist and an art teacher (god help me). I don’t have any profound insights into the personal aesthetics of artists who choose to paint large(r) female nudes, but I can speak to my own experience.

    Drawing skinny women is profoundly boring. Basically, they are all based on the same skeleton we all have. So, once you’ve got that down, most thin bodies fail to be interesting to the artist when drawing. BUT, large women gain weight in different ways, have different dimples, and that weight looks vastly different from person to person (even in the same positions). That IS very interesting. I know in art school we all got very excited when a plus size lady showed up to model for nude figure drawing.

    Well, and I got excited when that hottie who did his Tai Chi exercise nude showed up too. ;)

    Comment by ArtfulArtsyAmy — August 22, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

  3. Count me in as an art historian who DOES NOT LIKE Renoir. Saw a lot of his works this summer swanning around Paris–they leave me pretty cold. But then, I think Impressionism is the visual version of the Dave Matthews Band–once perhaps slightly transgressive, now the comfortable choice that everybody kinda likes.

    I like Renoir’s In the Loge, with the woman in striped black and white. Other than that, I think his ladies look blowsy and overstuffed, and like they don’t have anything particularly interesting going on in their heads. Nothing to do with their weight, everything to do with their glowing sameness.

    Comment by lapidary — August 22, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

  4. ArtfulArtsyAmy, you’ve almost got me convinced to sign up to model for the figure drawing classes at our local colleges.

    Comment by ZaftigWendy — August 22, 2011 @ 11:42 pm

  5. Zaftig! You should! You’d be very appreciated!!!!

    Comment by ArtfulArtsyAmy — August 26, 2011 @ 8:21 pm

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