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Renoir’s Mont Sainte-Victoire and a Lesson on Directional Brushwork


For your inspiration today is Mont Sainte-Victoire by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mont Sainte-Victoire, c.1888-89
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mont Sainte-Victoire, c.1888-89

Mont Sainte-Victoire is a mountain in France that overlooks Aix-en-Provence. When people think of paintings depicting this mountain, Paul Cézanne’s series is the first to come to mind. But I think Renoir’s more colorful interpretation deserves some attention.

This painting is a great lesson on directional brushwork and how you can use it to move the viewer’s eyes through and around the painting. Notice how Renoir takes us on a journey from the grass through to the trees through to the mountains and finally to the sky. And he does this with fluid curves and swirls rather than static lines.

These directional strokes also add a sense of movement and life to the painting. You can feel the grass and leaves swaying in the wind.

A few other observations:

  • There’s a pleasing contrast between warm and cool colors. It feels like they are jousting for attention and are evenly matched.
  • There are a few bursts of vivid orange and blue that add vibrance to the painting without appearing garish.
  • The colors are restrained for the mountain. This conveys distance and atmospheric perspective.
  • There’s a concentration of activity, dark accents, and highlights around the middle ground. This acts as a line separating the foreground and middle ground.
  • There’s an interesting sense of scale, with the trees in the middle ground being the same size in the painting as the mountain in the distance (linear perspective).

Speaking of landscapes, tomorrow we will be opening enrolment for our Landscape Painting Masterclass. This will be the last cohort we take through before we open it to the public at full price. Please ​join the waitlist​ if interested.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

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