Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (February 25, 1841–December 3, 1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style.

Biography

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.

In 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.

A distinct change in subjects painted by Renoir followed this loss of his frequent painting location and painting forays into the forest and along the nearby riverside that he took with his close friend among the family, Julet Le Coeur.

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 spying on them and they were about to throw him into the river when a commune leader, Raoul Rigault, recognized Renoir as the man who 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.

While 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, who eventually became one of the leading painters of the day.

Later, he married Aline Victorine Charigot. After his marriage Renoir painted many scenes of his wife and daily family life, especially of their children and their nurse, a cousin to his wife, 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.

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.

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.

Two of Renoir's paintings have sold for more than $70 million. Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre sold for $78.1 million in 1990.

Artworks

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), displayed to the right. The painting depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people, at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre, close to where he lived.

Renoir's paintings are notable for their vibrant light and interesting color. While many Impressionist painters focused on landscapes, Renoir also painted 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.

In the 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.

A trip to Italy in 1881, when he saw works by Raphael and other Renaissance masters, 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.

His early works 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.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. (2007, January 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:54, February 2, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pierre-Auguste_Renoir&oldid=103302929

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