Charles Gleyre has always been the whipping boy and the straight man for everyone who writes about the Impressionists. It was his misfortune to be not only an Academic painter in an age when the Academics have been declared the enemies of the human race, but also to be the teacher of Bazille, Monet, and Renoir. He was "a second-rate schoolmaster, but a good man".

That's what we're told in Renoir's name. But Renoir was not Monet. Renoir later betrayed the cause and became something of a Classicist. It was this Renoir, not the ultramontane Impressionist, who became the emperor of the nude, the one who has not been surpassed before or since. The painter of classical forms with Impressionist techniques.

Pierre Auguste Renoir  - Nude in the Sun

But where did he learn the secret of painting idealized and abstracted women with exciting colors and soft outlines, making them women and symbols of beauty at once? From Gleyre, who had already softened and particularized the lighting and the outlines.

Be careful at whom you laugh.

William Adolphe Bouguereau  - The Birth of Venus Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre  - The Bath
Bouguereau, a hard-line Academic. Gleyre.
  All images of this painting courtesy of The Renaissance Café

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