Renoir's Painting: The Gaze

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In this paper I will be writing about the “Gaze” which is present within impressionist artist Renoir’s painting The Umbrellas. The gaze gives us a lot of insight of the figures and the relationships we may be viewing. In the case of Renoir’s work the insight the viewer gets is the actions and preemptive thought before a meeting of two people looking on as a spectator in the very same crowd. By using blurring techniques of background figures Renoir succeeds in creating a scene that appears like a glance, like a moment in time the viewer stepped upon and intently stared.

The gaze present in Renoir’s, The Umbrellas (c. 1883) is meant to provoke the conception of assessing a situation from afar, and endeavoring on the chance of action before your subject of interest notices your intentions. Renoir places the viewer in the role as the spectator watching the scene of a young woman carrying a basket, lingering behind her with his full attention is a man as if leaning in to speak to her or offer her shelter from the rain, as she has none. This woman, attractive, is gazing away from the man towards the direction of the viewer eyes glazed, vulnerably clutching her dress. To her right in the crowd the spectator makes eye contact with small girl continuing the gaze as her mother is watching her intently, and sure enough would follow her daughter’s gaze catching the viewer staring. This gaze makes full circle whilst the spectator awaits this chance to approach the young women passing by the crowded street vastly filled with brush stroked umbrellas. Renoir plays with the projection of a moment in time of a man meeting a woman or two people who will miss the opportunity and pass by. The gaze freezes this brief moment in time making it as if the viewer themselves are within the crowd weighing the situation before it occurs trading “on contemporary anxieties of the necessity of weighing up a situation and acting quickly in order to evade detection..”(Smith, 40)....
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