Renoir, Monet, Degas – 1915

Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting
R: Sacha Guitry. P: Sacha Guitry. Fr 1915

“In this rare footage from 1915 we see the 74-year-old master seated at his easel, applying paint to a canvas while his youngest son Claude, 14, stands by to arrange the palette and place the brush in his father’s permanently clenched hand. By the time the film was made Renoir could no longer walk, even with crutches. He depended on others to move him around in a wheelchair. His assistants would scroll large canvases across a custom-made easel, so that the seated painter could reach different areas with his limited arm movements.
The film of Renoir was made by 30-year-old Sacha Guitry, who appears midway through the film sitting down and talking with the artist. Guitry was the son of the famous actor and theatre director Lucien Guitry, and would go on to even greater fame than his father as an actor, filmmaker and playwright. When a group of German intellectuals issued a manifesto after the outbreak of World War I bragging about the superiority of German culture, Guitry was infuriated. As an act of patriotism he decided to make a film of France’s great men and women of the arts. It would be released as Ceux de Chez Nous, or ‘Those of Our Land’. Guitry and Renoir were already friends, so when the young man embarked on his project he travelled to Renoir’s home at Cagnes-sur-Mer, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. The date was shortly after June 15, 1915, when Renoir’s wife Aline died.”
Mike Springer
Open Culture

Claude Monet – Filmed Painting Outdoors
R: Sacha Guitry. P: Sacha Guitry. Fr 1915

“Once again, the footage was produced by Sacha Guitry for his project Ceux de Chez Nous, or ‘Those of Our Land’. It was shot in the summer of 1915, when Monet was 74 years old. It was not the best time in Monet’s life. His second wife and eldest son had both died in the previous few years, and his eyesight was getting progressively worse due to cataracts. But despite the emotional and physical setbacks, Monet would soon rebound, making the last decade of his life (he died in 1926 at the age of 86) an extremely productive period in which he painted many of his most famous studies of water lilies.
At the beginning of the film clip we see Guitry and Monet talking with each other. Then Monet paints on a large canvas beside a lily pond. It’s a shame the camera doesn’t show the painting Monet is working on, but it’s fascinating to see the great artist all clad in white, a cigarette dangling from his lips, painting in his lovely garden.”
Mike Springer
Open Culture

Edgar Degas – Filmed Walking Down a Paris Street
R: Sacha Guitry. P: Sacha Guitry. Fr 1915

“Edgar Degas was nearly blind when this film footage was taken in 1915. The great French Impressionist painter had begun to lose his eyesight in his thirties, when he became extremely sensitive to bright light and experienced a loss of vision in his right eye. Degas developed blind spots in both eyes, and by the time he was in his forties he had lost a significant part of his central vision. (…) When the young actor Sacha Guitry approached the retired artist about appearing in his film Ceux de Chez Nous, (…) Degas flatly refused to participate. Undeterred, Guitry became a sort of pioneering paparazzi: He set up his camera near Degas’s home on the Boulevard de Clichy and waited in ambush for the 81-year-old man to pass by on one of his regular walks.
The resulting film is brief, but fascinating. The great painter strolls along with a female helper, a bowler hat on his head and a folded overcoat under one arm, using an umbrella as a walking stick. When he gets closer to the camera we can see that Degas is wearing the tinted glasses he customarily used to shield what was left of his eyesight from the harsh daylight. When the old man reaches the edge of the frame, the woman’s hand takes hold of his arm, and then he’s gone.”
Mike Springer
Open Culture

>>> Arts and Artists