Monday, June 16


I am absolutely convinced that a great artist only two or three times in his life has a clear and complete vision of an artwork in his head beforehand. . .But if what I know about many great artists is true, then they were for the most part experimenters. They experimented all the time, testing and trying; they were mainly like a sculptor who molds the clay with his fingers and, after he sees the shape, understands that by pushing the clay a little more to the other side, he can give to this shape more meaning or even a new one—a meaning he didn't have n mind before starting to work.

The same is true of landscape for a painter. A landscape is nothing and doesn't count for anything; yet it counts very much because it is the reason why the painter paints the painting. The landscape is the inspiration, but even inspiration is the wrong word. I should say the landscape is the "reason-for"; it is the "accident." But we need such accidents. The painter in front of his landscape starts with the idea that he is just going to paint it, that's all; but if he is a real artist he discovers so many things in the landscape—and even more in himself through the landscape, unconsciously—that he may just create a great painting.

-- Jean Renoir, from "A Conversation with Jean Renoir" (1956 interview with Gideon Bachmann), included in Jean Renoir Interviews ed. Bert Cardullo

Jean Renoir Interviews

Filmmaker Jean Renoir was the son of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir [more]

Excerpt from Jean Renoir's screenplay for The Grand Illusion (one of my favorite films) here