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