How to Grow a Renoir Painting

Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted his “Fruits of the Midi” in 1881 and I recreated it from my garden this year.

The last time I was in Chicago, I had just enough time to take a brisk walk through the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). I made it a point to put my eyeballs on some of the famous paintings there like Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

But I spent the majority of my limited time in the galleries that featured the artists of the impressionist period.

It was there that I stopped in front of Renoir’s still life called Fruits of the Midi. I admired everything about it, from the variety of colorful fruits to the way they were arranged on the platter. I loved the way he captured the essence of each piece of fruit and how the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes spilled onto the table.

It was then I decided I’d try to recreate his painting by growing some of the same fruit in my own garden. I knew I wouldn’t be able to grow an exact reproduction because lemons and pomegranates don’t grow in Colorado, but I’d try to get as close as I could with my eggplant, pepper, squash and tomato choices. Here’s what I planted:

‘Ukrainian Beauty’ eggplant
‘Mariachi’ pepper
‘Baby Round’ summer squash
‘Black Krim’, ‘Glacier’, ‘Primo’, ‘Tie-Dye’ and ‘Caramba’ tomatoes

As soon as the eggplant was the right shade of purple, I knew it was time to arrange my version of the fruits in the painting. I searched my old trunk for a white china platter and my mother’s linen tablecloth while John set up his camera and adjusted the lighting. With the picture of Renoir’s still life on the computer, we composed all the fruit in a grouping similar to the one in the painting.

John worked his magic with Photoshop to get the color of the background curtain just right, and then he placed the image in the original painting’s frame.

Please take a moment to compare our efforts with the original. How do you think we did?


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