By Maggie Pruitt
What appears to be an average home in Bryan holds rare treasures within its walls. The stories told by residents Marie-Paule Renoir and her daughter Nathalie Farinola, along with the European century-old antiques and art, are priceless. Both have ties to the significant artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, whose work is now being featured in a local exhibit.
The 175th Anniversary “Remembering Renoir, through Personal Archives” exhibit opened at the Benjamin Knox Gallery in College Station in October and will continue through Dec. 3. The exhibit includes rare, hand-pulled lithographs for purchase and a collection of black and white photographs from renowned Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s life.
Marie-Paule is the wife of the late Paul Renoir, the grandson of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In red lipstick, white pants, high heels, a black velvet coat, and a matching bow in her hair, she says of her life now in Bryan College Station, “I am very happy here. Houston’s too busy. I like quiet. I’m very reserved in a way.”
Marie-Paule’s children have all slowly migrated to the area for various reasons and have made their homes close to one another. Marie-Paule decided to settle in Bryan as well. The family’s ties to Texas A&M University and local artists led to the Renoir exhibit taking place in College Station.
Farinola and Knox became acquainted because Knox is also an Impressionist artist. Knox also has strong ties to Texas A&M. Marie-Paule and Nathalie wanted to do more with the university because Paul had an interest in the involvement of art in education. In 1982, the French Consulate of Houston invited Paul to judge a student art competition at the grand opening of Hotel Sofitel where he met Belgian interpreter Marie-Paule Christiaens Bogaert Farinola, the divorced wife of Adriano Farinola, owner of Pino’s Restaurant in Houston and now Frittella’s Italian Café in Bryan. After Marie-Paule and Paul were married, Nathalie Farinola, who has an international travel degree, became Paul and Marie-Paule Renoir’s archivist.
The word lithography means “drawing on stone.” Circa 1796, the process of lithography was accidentally discovered by Alois Senefelder of Munich and was later introduced in France by artists serving in Napoleon’s army.
The process of hand-pulled lithographs is produced on a lithographic zinc plate rather than stone by the resistance of water and oil against each other. The image on a zinc plate is then transferred to acid-free archival paper. Some lithographs have up to 32 different zinc plates. The process can take weeks, especially if the lithographs are in color, like the Renoir lithographs, because they have to be repeatedly put through the process in order to develop the correct colors through each layer that is printed.
The lithographs featured in the Benjamin Knox Gallery exhibition were printed at Mourlot Imprimerie in Paris in 1993 and 1994. It took several weeks to produce the limited edition of lithographs that are available for purchase at the exhibit. The lithographs’ value is based on the quality of the archival paper and ink and intricacy and tediousness of the process. Each lithograph is hand signed and numbered by Paul Renoir and has the embossment of the “Cachet de l’atelier Renoir” and the “Cachet de la Maison Mourlot,” which increases the value. They were produced during the last two years Mourlot Studios was open in Paris. Today, when you smell a lithograph that was made in Paris in 1992, it still smells like the ink off the lithographic press, says Farinola.
Paul had an interest in the marriage of art and education and actively took part in judging art competitions for schools, which is what inspired Marie-Paule and Nathalie to choose Texas A&M and College Station as the temporary home of the exhibit with their artist friend Knox. They are interested in using their resources to be collaborative with students and educators to reach the rest of the world through Texas A&M and its branches in other countries, as well as increasing art exposure and education for children and adults in the Brazos Valley.
The public is invited to a reception and lecture with Marie-Paule Renoir and Nathalie Farinola at the Benjamin Knox Gallery on Nov. 11 from 6pm to 9pm
Visit the exhibit “Remembering Renoir, through Personal Archives” daily from noon to 8pm through Dec. 3 at The Benjamin Knox Gallery and Wine Depot, 405 University Drive E., College Station. For more information, visit www.benjaminknox.com or call (979) 696-5669.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Frittella’s Italian Café and listed Marie-Paule Renoir as a co-owner. The Café is owned by Adriano Farinola and his wife Vancene.