My mother loved art. When I was a child she took me to numerous art galleries in Washington DC where I would stare diligently with my young eyes into the world of Monet, Degas, Renoir and the like. The French impressionist were my favorite, they left room for interpretation and expansion.
Renoir’s “On the Terrace” graced our living room; (the original is at the Art Institute of Chicago). It is a painting of two sisters, the younger about five with big brown soulful eyes and an older one who dons a bright red hat. In my infinite child’s wisdom it very much looked to me like a tomato, thus I referred to it as “the lady with the tomato hat”.
When my mother passed my aunt sent me a small date book with the very same Renoir on its cover commenting on how it had reminded her of me and my mom. I was touched.
This past summer I was fortunate enough to meet Alexandre Renoir, the great grandson of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. His demeanor was sweetly shy, his works, on the other hand, were vibrant explosions of color, rich with imagination. I heard him conversing in French with his older brother, the meaning of which mostly eluded me, but the sounds melted into language much like his paintings, giving me the impression of form and understanding. At that moment I then reconnected with something dear to me, my childhood and my mother.
A few weeks ago my neighbor was cleaning out, and in her garbage staring out at me, was “the lady in the tomato hat”. I stood stunned, amazed really. The sheer coincidence of the moment took my breath away. Of course I had to rescue her. Renoir in the garbage was surely a wink from my mother in heaven.