I’m drawing Renoir’s Ballet Dancer from the National Gallery online, looking at a reproduction of the painting and using the website’s zoom feature. The dancer seems so simple, especially compared to some contemporary drawings of faces that I was looking at earlier today. Renoir had almost seemed to be bested by a contemporary artist, but looking more closely, I find the dancer’s face to be so subtle and difficult to capture. Perhaps the difficulty lies with the simplicity. Get one detail of a feature off just a little and the whole effect is mistaken. The frankness of gaze disappears, the sense of her living presence then eludes.
Mine is not his. I am still tinkering with it since it pleases me to fuss over it. The process makes me feel closer to Renoir. His frank art is easy to underestimate. Yet there’s a freshness and immediacy in his painting — and also depth, but the latter is subtle and easily missed.
I think that it’s through drawing that I am now sensing the nuance. How amazing to make a seemingly living face from such spare means as he uses.