Richard Guino 

The two dimensional works of Pierre Auguste Renoir are among the best known and best loved works in all art history.    In museums or in coffee table art books much of the world is familiar with the sensual colors and forms of his paintings, drawings and lithographs.

  However, because of a series of unusual circumstances, the sculptures of Renoir are little known except  by the experts.   And though these experts generally regard the sculptures of Renoir are among the best examples of the classical French tradition, there are several reasons they are relatively unknown.     One reason is that Renoir created very few sculptures, and the examples of these works are in the major museums in the world.   Furthermore, the sculptures of Renoir have been surrounded in mystery since their creation some 70 years ago.

  Before 1918, Renoir had created only one sculpture (a small medallion depicting his young son, Coco), and by that time, a crippling rheumatism had reduced his hands to more than claws so he was completely unable to manipulate the raw material of sculpture in order to realize the visions which still richly filled his imagination.    By a happy coincidence, Renoir’s dealer Vollard introduced him to a young Spanish sculptor, Richard Guino, who was considered by his mentor, Aristide Maillol, to be the most talented student of sculpture in Europe.

  For four years, Renoir and Guino lived together in Renoir’s home in Cagnes and Essoyes and discovered they had a collaboration that has been described as nothing short of miraculous.    If was is if by osmosis the old mater’s visions flew through the air and lodged themselves in the brain, and heart, and most importantly the hands of the young Spanish genius.    The resultant works are a marvelous bi-product of a collaboration perhaps unparalleled in the history of art. 

No one could see these fabulous bronzes and believe they were not from the mind of Renoir.   Yet we are certain that the fingers of Renoir were so paralyzed as to have made their execution impossible for him.

  The mystery began  after the collaboration ended in 1918-1918.    Ambroise Vollard, perhaps feeling that the market place in those years would have difficulty comprehending the nature of the relationship between Renoir and Guino, totally suppressed the role of Guino in the creation of these works.     Therefore, for many years, the only hint of a collaboration was the mention, almost parenthetically, of an unnamed “assistant” who helped Renoir with some of the more physically demanding aspects of the creation of his bronze sculptures.

  As Guino grew old and continued to sculpt, paint and draw in relative obscurity, certain champions, including his son Michael, beseeched him to attempt to set the record straight.   Finally after being approached by Renoir’s heirs in the 1960s to allow certain molds which he had created some of these masterpieces decades before to be recast, Richard Guino realized that yet more of his collaborative work with Renoir was going to be presented to the world marketplace without his part in the creation being known, and he finally decided to seek to redress the scales.

  He sued the Renoir estate in 1969 and over the next 14 years, the French legal system analyzed the evidence from every angle, interviewed hundreds of current artists, sought evidence from personal recollections of the creative process, and read through correspondence related to those years.    After a series of appeals were exhausted by the Renoir family, the decision stood:    Richard Guino and Pierre Renoir were co-authors of the vast majority of that grouping of sculptures which had previously been recognized around the world as Renoir’s alone.    The court also took note of the lack of control of the castings of some of the sculptures which had existed for some time, and ordered that the original molds be placed in the joint custody of the Renoir and Guino heirs for the creation of a final small group of castings, after which it ordered the original molds be given in perpetuity to   national museums.    Of course, the proceeds of this last group of castings was to go primarily to the Richard Guino estate.   Guino himself had died in 1973.

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