name Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Born February 25, 1841
Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France
Died December 3, 1919
Renoir (February 25, 1841–December 3, 1919) was a French artist
who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, the
child of a working class family. As a boy, he worked in a porcelain
factory where his drawing talents led to him being chosen to paint designs
on fine china. He also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and
decorations on fans before he enrolled in art school. During those early
years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters.
The Theater Box,
1874 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Courtauld Institute Galleries, LondonIn
1862 he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met
Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille, and Claude Monet. At times during the
1860s, he did not have enough money to buy paint. Although Renoir first
exhibited paintings in 1864, recognition did not come for another ten
years due, in part, to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.
In these difficult
times, an affair with a teen-aged member of a patron's family, Marie
Le Coeur, lost him not only the valuable support gained by the association,
but a generous welcome to stay on their property near Fontainebleau
and its scenic forest. This loss of a favorite painting location resulted
in a distinct change of subjects.
During the Paris
Commune in 1871, while he painted on the banks of the Seine River, some
members of a commune group thought he was a spy, and were about to throw
him into the river when a commune leader, Raoul Rigault, recognized
Renoir as the man who had protected him on an earlier occasion.
In the mid-1870s, Renoir experienced his first acclaim after his work
hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
The Swing (La Balançoire), 1876, oil on canvas, Musée
d'Orsay, ParisWhile living and working in Montmartre, Renoir engaged
in an affair with a model, who sat for him and many of his fellow painters
while studying their techniques; Suzanne Valadon eventually became one
of the leading painters of the day.
In 1881, he traveled
to Algeria, a country he associated with Eugène Delacroix, then
to Madrid, Spain to see the work of Diego Velázquez. Following
that he traveled to Italy to see Titian's masterpieces in Florence,
and the paintings of Raphael in Rome. On January 15, 1882 Renoir met
the composer, Richard Wagner, at his home in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir
painted Wagner's portrait in just thirty-five minutes.
In 1883, he spent
the summer in Guernsey, creating fifteen paintings in little over a
month. Most of these feature Moulin Huet, a bay in Saint Martin's, Guernsey.
Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel, and it
has a varied landscape ranging from beaches, cliffs, bays, forests,
and mountains. These paintings were the subject of a set of commemorative
postage stamps, issued by the Bailiwick of Guernsey in 1983.
In 1887, a year
when Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee, and upon the request
of the queen's associate, Phillip Richbourg, he donated several paintings
to the "French Impressionist Paintings" catalog as a token
of his loyalty.
In 1890 he married
Aline Victorine Charigot, who, along with a number of the artist's friends,
had already served as a model for Les Déjeuner des canotiers
(Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881). After his marriage Renoir painted
many scenes of his wife and daily family life, including their children
and their nurse, Aline's cousin Gabrielle Renard. The Renoirs had three
sons, one of whom, Jean, became a filmmaker of note and another, Pierre,
became a stage and film actor.
Girls at the Piano, 1892, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Musée d'Orsay,
Around 1892, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. In 1907, he moved
to the warmer climate of "Les Collettes," a farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer,
close to the Mediterranean coast. Renoir painted during the last twenty
years of his life, even when arthritis severely limited his movement,
and he was wheelchair-bound. He developed progressive deformities in
his hands and ankylosis of his right shoulder, requiring him to adapt
his painting technique.
It is often said
that in the advanced stages of his arthritis, he painted by strapping
a brush to his arm, but other sources say that this is not true.
During this period
he created sculptures by directing an assistant who worked the clay.
Renoir also used a moving canvas, or picture roll, to facilitate painting
large works with his limited joint mobility.
In 1919, Renoir
visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with the old masters.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte
d'Azur, on December 3.
Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette), 1876,
Pierre-Auguste RenoirRenoir's paintings are notable for their vibrant
light and saturated color, most often focusing on people in intimate
and candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects.
In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details
of a scene through freely brushed touches of color, so that his figures
softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.
His initial paintings
show the influence of the colourism of Eugène Delacroix and the
luminosity of Camille Corot. He also admired the realism of Gustave
Courbet and Édouard Manet, and his early work resembles theirs
in his use of black as a color. Another painter Renoir greatly admired
was the 18th century master François Boucher.
A fine example of
Renoir's early work, and evidence of the influence of Courbet's realism,
is Diana, 1867. Ostensibly a mythological subject, the painting is a
naturalistic studio work, the figure carefully observed, solidly modeled,
and superimposed upon a contrived landscape. If the work is still a
'student' piece, already Renoir's heightened personal response to female
sensuality is present. The model was Lise Tréhot, then the artist's
mistress and inspiration for a number of paintings.
In the late 1860s,
through the practice of painting light and water en plein air (in the
open air), he and his friend Claude Monet discovered that the color
of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected color of the objects
surrounding them. Several pairs of paintings exist in which Renoir and
Monet, working side-by-side, depicted the same scenes.
One of the best
known Impressionist works is Renoir's 1876 Dance at Le Moulin de la
Galette (Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette). The painting depicts an open-air
scene, crowded with people, at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre,
close to where he lived.
On the Terrace, oil on canvas, 1881, Art Institute of ChicagoThe works
of his early maturity were typically Impressionist snapshots of real
life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the mid-1880s, however,
he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal
technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women,
such as The Bathers, which was created during 1884-87. It was a trip
to Italy in 1881, when he saw works by Raphael and other Renaissance
masters, that convinced him that he was on the wrong path, and for the
next several years he painted in a more severe style. This is sometimes
called his "Ingres period", as he concentrated on his drawing
and emphasized the outlines of figures.
After 1890, however,
he changed direction again, returning to the use of thinly brushed color
which dissolved outlines as in his earlier work. After this period he
concentrated especially on monumental nudes and on domestic scenes.
A prolific painter,
he made several thousand paintings. The warm sensuality of Renoir's
style made his paintings some of the most well-known and frequently-reproduced
works in the history of art.
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Renoir was born in Limoges and brought up in Paris, where his father,
a tailor with a large family, settled in 1845. From the age of thirteen
he worked as an apprentice painter, painting flowers on porcelain plates.
This early apprenticeship left a certain trace on his art, which was
always decorative in spite of its later realism. After machines for
coloring ceramics had been introduced, he had to switch to decorating
fans and screens. Having saved some money, in 1862 Renoir entered the
Atelier Gleyre and there made friends with Monet, Sisley and Bazille;
some time later he met Pissarro and Cézanne.
He first exhibited at the Salon in 1864; after that the jury rejected
his works and only in 1867 accepted Lise, portrait of his model and
lover Lise Trehot. In 1867, he and Monet lived at Bazille’s house.
In 1868-1870, he shared a studio with Bazille in Paris. Young artists
sat for each other, i.e. Frederic Bazille at His Easel by Renoir and
Portrait of Pierre-Auguste Renoir by Bazille. He spent the summer of
1869 with Monet at Bougival on the Seine; together they worked out the
main principles of the Impressionist method. It was most strongly manifested
in the plein-air studies of La Grenouillère (1869). See and compare
La Grenouillere by Monet and La Grenouillere by Renoir, the painters
worked side by side.
It was in the 1870s, that Renoir’s Impressionism style reached
its peak. He worked at Argenteuil and in Paris. He participated in the
Impressionist exhibitions of 1874, 1876, 1877 and 1882 and was a founding
member of the review L’Impressionniste (1877), where he published
his article on the principles of contemporary art. The Swing and the
great composition of Le Moulin de la Galette, one of the finest, most
smiling of his masterpieces, the models for which were his friends,
mostly artists, and Montmartre girls. It is like a marvelous tissue
of interwoven sunlight and soft hazy blue.
Renoir achieved recognition earlier than his friends. In 1879-80, he
sent several portraits to the official Salon, among them Portrait of
the Actress Jeanne Samary and Portrait of Mme Charpentier and Her Children.
The artist found himself at a critical point. In 1880, he met Aline
Charigot, a common woman, whom he would marry in 1890, they had 3 sons:
Pierre (1885-), Jean (1894 - ), who would become an important film director,
and Claude (1901- ), called “Coco”. The same year, 1880,
Renoir broke his right arm and for some time painted with his left hand.
In 1881, he traveled to Algeria, later to Italy, where he was impressed
by Raphael and the Pompeii frescoes. The Luncheon of the Boating Party
is certainly one of Renoir’s finest canvases.
In the 1880s, he abandoned Impressionism for what is often called the
“dry style”. He began a search for solid form and stable
composition, a search, which led him back to the masters of the Renaissance.
He worked more carefully and meticulously, his colors became cooler
and smoother. He later returned to hot rich colors and free brushwork
of his earlier days to portray nudes in sunlight, a style, which he
continued to develop to the end of his life: The Bathers (1887).
In 1886, the art dealer Durand-Ruel exhibited 32 of Renoir's paintings
in New York, thus opening the American market for Impressionism. The
evidence of Renoir’s (and other Impressionists’) success
in the USA is a great number of their pictures in American museums.
In December 1888, Renoir suffered the first attacks of arthritis, which
would cripple his hands; in 1898 after a serious attack of the disease
his right arm was paralyzed. From now on he painted, overcoming strong
pains, strapping a brush to his wrist. In 1919, not long before his
death, he finished, in great pain, his large-scale composition The Great
Bathers (The Nymphs).
Renoir died in Cagnes on 3 December 1919 and was buried in Essoyes,
next to Aline.