Days Like These

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15 August 1918

RENE GIMPEL, a Parisian art dealer, writing in his diary:

"When I returned to Paris, I was so glad to have made Renoir's acquaintance and so grateful for it to Georges Bernheim that I gave him at cost the canvases I had bought from the artist.

Seeing them again in his gallery, without the benefit of the Midi light, I was astonished to find them as beautiful as on the Riviera, and especially the portrait of the woman in the straw hat with the three red roses at the side.

The canvases done this year are perhaps more beautiful than those of the last three years: they haven't that rather disagreeable brick-red colour, but have grown pearly again.

Georges Bernheim told me that he went to see Renoir earlier this summer, and he congratulated me on doing the same: "Like Vollard! [another art dealer] There's someone who knows how to manage him. One day he brought him a parcel of fish from the market, threw them on a table, and told him, 'Paint me that'. Amused, Renoir did it, and Vollard carried off the canvas.

Another time, Vollard appeared before the painter in toreador dress, and Renoir, ravished by the colour, did his portrait.

"On the other hand, Vollard holds his spittoon, brings him his chamberpot, and helps him to pee."

18 August 1917

CYNTHIA ASQUITH writing in her diary:

"Frances told us a good Queen Mary story at breakfast. Going round a hospital, she was struck by a fair-headed mother with a very dark baby.

She commented on this and returned to the woman's bedside again after completing her round, saying: 'His father must have been very dark - wasn't he?' To which the woman breezily replied to her: 'Sure, Ma'am, I don't know - he never took his hat off.'."