renoir paints a pretty picture of two contortionists collecting oranges from their admirers after their act.
in real life, these girls were not pretty at all, in their late teens, and performing in skimpy clothing for a bunch of men who came to the circus to see these girls contort themselves in exposing costumery.
in the painting, two portraits of youthful beauty – perhaps twins – pose in balletic perfection among the gorgeous oranges of their admirers.
people wander past, adoring the beautiful colors and strokes and imagining the young girls they watched grow old – sisters and daughters – and imagining what life must have been like with rose colored glasses – for Paris is always seen through such beautiful lenses.
which one is more real, now? is it the vulgar truth of young girls exploited as the strippers of their day and age? is it the beautiful reinterpretation of them through the artist’s lens? is it the way that the picture calls upon a familiar shared experience among the general populace?
i stood below the two contortionists today, and i wondered if maybe the painting is more real. the painting is the bridge between experiences, after all.
Renoir. From the Art Institute of Chicago. Two girls, gathering oranges after their performance.