Art Matters: Renoir Landscapes

Art Matters: Renoir Landscapes 1865-1883
The National Gallery, London Until 20 May
Star Rating: 5/5

Art Matters is a unique joint initiative between business advisers Ernst and Young and the children’s charity NCH, writes Angela Easterling.

Since 2001 they have run a programme of art workshops and gallery tours for children and young adults who are supported by NCH throughout the country. These workshops culminate in the work produced being shown at an annual major exhibition also sponsored by Ernst and Young at the National Gallery.

This year’s exhibition and inspiration for the junior artists is the Impressionist paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).

At the private viewing, the impressive entrance to The National Gallery was beautifully lit and bedecked with flowers. The chief executive of NCH, Clare Tickell, welcomed us and explained the aim of Art Matters to encourage young people to be inspired by great artists and to ensure that they get access to materials, teachers and galleries.

Several of the young artists were introduced and, incredibly bravely, stood up in front of several hundred people and told their stories.

I spoke to one of the young people involved, Lauren, 17, who is supported by NCH’s Guernsey Youth Housing. She said: “I liked doing Art Matters because it was an opportunity to do something different. Guernsey is quite small and there isn’t much to do. We learned different techniques like how to blend colours. I really enjoyed it and would like to do something similar again.”

The Renoir landscapes on show were painted early in his life, before he had begun to enjoy commercial success. They brim over with energy and enthusiasm.

He was experimenting, sometimes using great splodges of thick paint straight from the tube, sometimes thin washes rather in the manner of a water colourist.

He was exploring his art, perhaps playing with his materials in a childlike fashion: making “impressions”, in fact. They are glorious pictures.

I found this same energy and freedom next door in the children’s paintings.

There was an enthusiasm for the paint, no inhibition or fear of getting something wrong, and a confidence that surely these young people will need in the future.

Access to art can make impressions on young minds and help build that confidence.

It was a wonderfully uplifting evening. Without doubt, art matters.

Angela Easterling is a professional photographer and has an ongoing relationship with the Eden Project


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