The Renoir Wars and the slow death of an Urban Dream

Sitting along a dilapidated pedestrian mall and hidden between bushes rests an original Renoir. Yes, Fresno has an original Renoir! And, it is the only one in the world you can touch without the glare of a security guard.

The magnificent Grande laveuse is widely considered Renoir’s sculptural masterpiece. In his frail final years Renoir created a series of sculptures with the help of an assistant, Richard Guino. Designed to be a companion piece to an equally large Le Forgeron, the Grande laveuse was inspired by the abstract notion of elemental opposites.

The humble figures–“a simple blacksmith heating the iron, a simple washerwoman scrubbing the laundry”– illustrate the dichotomy of fire and water. Cast as a man and a woman, the two figures compose a symbol of a virtually endless series of oppositions.

Though the assistant Guino completed some sketches for Le Forgeron Renoir soon grew weary of this partnership and the work was never completed. The Grande laveuse persists as testament to the ambitious project, and the peak of Renoir’s sculptural work.

Renoir could not have dreamt how much unpleasantness would erupt over his own final works, years after his death. Today, the descendants of Renoir and Guino are locked in a messy battle of ownership, copyright and authenticity that is known as The Renoir Wars.

We visit the grand dame, Grande laveuse, a symbol of endless oppositions, on the next Urban Taste Adventure this Saturday, May 23rd. Likely the last time to enjoy another artists vision on the Fulton Mall; Garrett Eckbo.  Eckbo’s own vision for a 20th Century landscape from Fresno Mall Revisited Landscape Architecture 1959:

“The plentitude of quiet and moving waters, and of shade and greenery from trees and arbors, symbolizes the bursting vitality of irrigated agriculture in the hot interior valley of the arid west”

This weekends tour may be one of the last times to enjoy this historic and influential space where the grand dame sits. Fulton Mall will be removed soon to restore vehicle traffic; in opposition of Eckbo’s vision yet fulfilling Renoir’s symbol of a virtually endless series of oppositions.

Join us! (Advance tickets needed)

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