Transcribing Life Through Art: Renoir, Father and Son

Transcribing Life Through Art: Renoir, Father and Son
Illustrator Jak Lemonnier and writer Eddy Simon have combined forces to create a tender historical account of Renoir’s life and the story of his second son, film director Jean Renoir. The story revolves around the hours Jean spent with his father at Cagnes-sur-Mer while recuperating from injuries suffered in the Great War. The story spins off in different directions as father and son define themselves through their art. Both the artiste and the auteur sought to transcribe the spectacle of life through their art. We see a young man striking out to make his own mark in the world while his famous father is losing his potency. Renoir: Father and Son is no comic book of yore. This is a kinder and gentler take on the graphic novel. Jak Lemonnier has created a stellar work of art in a format that old man Renoir and his son would have approved of. The introduction by Jacques Renoir – Renoir’s great grandson tells how he found his great-uncle’s stash of early 20th century bandes-dessinée, comic books, inside the family’s laundry-room closet. The old village of Haut-de-Cagnes as seen from the château. (C) CC BY-SA 3.0 Jacques Renoir accurately describes Eddy Simon’s work as well researched. Translated from French, lots of Gallic color remains in the subtly notated text to keep the story vibrant. At times the English translation leaves something to be desired. The occasional handwritten letter isn’t translated, but the bande-dessinée form can go above and beyond the language barrier. I have copies of Tintin, Leo Mallet’s Nestor Burma and Gradimir Smudja’s Vincent et Van Gogh in their original French because the meaningful tableaux and fleeting images tell the story in as few words as possible. Auguste Renoir. (C) Public Domain On Renoir’s easel Lemonnier’s cartoon art magically transforms into recognizable Renoir masterpieces, but in postage stamp size. Readers familiar with Renoir’s works will see many familiar paintings and montages. Others will quickly become acquainted with Renoir’s style and story. The reader is in front of Auguste Renoir’s canvas and behind Jean Renoir’s camera. As Jean was raised at the knee of his artist father, some of his father’s influence would undoubtedly rub off. Renoir tells his little son to protect his hands and fingers are there are necessary for a tactile life. The irony here is that Renoir, as an elder father, ages rapidly as the ravages of arthritis cripple his fingers. Little Jean wants to be a painter like his father but Renoir is more philosophical. “Don’t force your hand,” he says to his son, “be a cork bobbing on a stream or a feather on the wind. Follow the current life sends you.” The cork motif is one that pops up throughout the panels of Renoir: Father and Son.

Lead photo credit : "Renoir: Father and Son", illustrated by Jak Lemonnier and written by Eddy Simon

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.