The Jewish Art Critic in Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”

Nov. 22 2017

In one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s best-known paintings, a bearded man in a top hat stands behind most of the other figures, with his back toward the viewer and his face partially obscured. Experts, along with many of Renoir’s contemporaries, have identified this man as the Jewish art critic and art collector Charles Ephrussi. Menachem Wecker writes:

Born in 1849 in Odessa, Ephrussi came from a wealthy Jewish family, which made its money in grain exporting and banking. By the 1870s, he was living in Paris, and anti-Semitism was on the rise. . . .

Ephrussi first collected Italian Renaissance works. . . . He was also interested in Japanese art, newly fashionable in Paris at the time. . . . At age twenty-eight, he debuted as a writer for the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, where he would remain for nearly 30 years, [eventually] as co-owner and director. . . .

Ephrussi rubbed elbows with Parisian elite and his reputation as an art historian grew, but he was nevertheless treated unfairly. . . . Edmond de Goncourt, [a] French man of letters, . . . wrote, “Ephrussi the Jew went to six or seven parties a night, so that he could climb to a position at the Ministry of Fine Arts.” And the English author George Painter, who was Marcel Proust’s biographer, recorded that people made fun of Ephrussi’s “Polish Jewish” accent. . . .

Not only did Ephrussi buy work from the Impressionists and write about them, but he also “won over” other clients for the Impressionists. [He] helped Renoir in particular find buyers in the French Jewish community. . . . But Renoir too would write in an anti-Semitic manner about Ephrussi, and their relationship [subsequently] cooled.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at National Review

More about: Anti-Semitism, Art, Arts & Culture, French Jewry


Iran Is Playing a Risky Game in Iraq

Nov. 12 2019

The anti-government protests that began in Iraq last month—in which Iraqi Shiites have been heard chanting “Iran out” and similar slogans to express their anger at Tehran’s growing influence in their country—have not abated, even as the numbers of casualties mount. Foremost in using violence on the demonstrators have been the Iran-backed militias that wield much power in the country. While the Islamic Republic has succeeded in repressing dissent in Lebanon, and seems close to defeating the uprising against Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Amir Taheri argues that Iraq will prove a tougher case:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Iraq, Shiites, Syrian civil war