It would be difficult to imagine a “safer” exhibition for a group of major museums to undertake than the retrospective of Renoir’s work which has recently arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston after major showings in London and Paris.[1] Attendance figures can only be underestimated, so the financial rewards—and the benefits to public education—can be taken for granted. Of course, this would be true for a major show of any late nineteenth-century French master, but for a variety of reasons it is especially true for Renoir, who holds a unique place of honor in the hearts of the lightly cultured public all over the westernized world. No other artist seems to make the looking at painting so effortlessly delightful and so unobstructed by the difficult aesthetic barriers normally raised by high art. As a maker of...


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