Romance Stories: a great film director tells how his parents met...

Aline Charigot

Pierre Renoir

I now come to the most important point in the meeting of these two beings: the mystery which is inexplicable to purely scientific minds, but is clear as day to those with a touch of mysticism. I mean to say that from the moment he took up a brush to paint, perhaps even earlier, perhaps even in his childhood dreams, thirty years before he ever knew her, Renoir was painting the portrait of Aline Charigot. The figure of Venus, on the vase which disappeared from my home during the Nazi occupation, is a materialization of my mother ten years before she was born. And the famous profile of Marie Antoionette, which my father painted so many times in the workroom of the porcelain factory, had a short nose! His employer once said to him: “Watch out. The customers won't recognize their idol. You must make the nose a little longer.” Naturally, Renoir did portraits of women who differed from one another physically. His interest in human beings made him strive to achieve real likenesses in his portraits. Yet whenever he painted subjects of his own choosing, he returned to the physical characteristics which were essentially those of his future wife. No one knows whether he deliberately chose such models or whether his imagination guided his hand. Oscar Wilde, whom he was to meet in later years, offered a much simpler explanation when he made the quip apropos of Turner: “Before him, there was no London fog.” The theory that painters “create the world” is borne out strikingly in Renoir's pictures, but we, his children also. He had done our portraits even before we came into the world, even before we were conceived, physically. He had represented us all hundreds of times; and all children, as well; all the young girls with whom he was unconsciously to people a universe which was to become his own.
— Jean Renoir, Renoir, My Father (1962)

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