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Pierre Auguste Renoir

Pierre Auguste Renoir

The French painter Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was one of the central figures of the impressionist movement. His work is characterized by an extraordinary richness of feeling, a warmth of response to the world and to the people in it.

During the 1870s a revolution erupted in French painting. Encouraged by artists like Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, a number of young painters began to seek alternatives to the traditions of Western painting that had prevailed since the beginning of the Renaissance. These artists went directly to nature for their inspiration and into the actual society of which they were a part. As a result, their works revealed a look of freshness and immediacy that in many ways departed from the look of Old Master painting. The new art, for instance, displayed vibrant light and color instead of the somber browns and blacks that had dominated previous painting. These qualities, among others, signaled the beginning of modern art.

Pierre Auguste Renoir was a central figure of this development, particularly in its impressionist phase. Like the other impressionists, he struggled through periods of public ridicule during his early career. But as the new style gradually became accepted, during the 1880s and 1890s, Renoir began to enjoy extensive patronage and international recognition. The high esteem accorded his art at that time has generally continued into the present day.

Renoir was born in Limoges on Feb. 25, 1841. Shortly afterward, his family moved to Paris. Because he showed a remarkable talent for drawing, Renoir became an apprentice in a porcelain factory, where he painted plates. Later, after the factory had gone out of business, he worked for his older brother, decorating fans. Throughout these early years Renoir made frequent visits to the Louvre, where he studied the art of earlier French masters, particularly those of the 18th century—Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, and Jean Honoré Fragonard. His deep respect for these artists informed his own painting throughout his career.

Early Career

In 1862 Renoir decided to study painting seriously and entered the Atelier Gleyre, where he met Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Jean Frédéric Bazille. During the next 6 years Renoir's art showed the influence of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, the two most innovative painters of the 1850s and 1860s. Courbet's influence is especially evident in the bold palette-knife technique of Diane Chasseresse (1867), while Manet's can be seen in the flat tones of Alfred Sisley and His Wife (1868). Still, both paintings reveal a sense of intimacy that is characteristic of Renoir's personal style.

The 1860s were difficult years for Renoir. At times he was too poor to buy paints or canvas, and the Salons of 1866 and 1867 rejected his works. The following year the Salon accepted his painting Lise. He continued to develop his work and to study the paintings of his contemporaries— not only Courbet and Manet, but Camille Corot and Euge‧ne Delacroix as well. Renoir's indebtedness to Delacroix is apparent in the lush painterliness of the Odalisque (1870).

Renoir and Impressionism

In 1869 Renoir and Monet worked together at La Grenouille‧re, a bathing spot on the Seine. Both artists became obsessed with painting light and water. According to Phoebe Pool (1967), this was a decisive moment in the development of impressionism, for "It was there that Renoir and Monet made their discovery that shadows are not brown or black but are coloured by their surroundings, and that the 'local colour' of an object is modified by the light in which it is seen, by reflections from other objects and by contrast with juxtaposed colours."

The styles of Renoir and Monet were virtually identical at this time, an indication of the dedication with which they pursued and shared their new discoveries. During the 1870s they still occasionally worked together, although their styles generally developed in more personal directions.

In 1874 Renoir participated in the first impressionist exhibition. His works included the Opera Box (1874), a painting which shows the artist's penchant for rich and freely handled figurative expression. Of all the impressionists, Renoir most consistently and thoroughly adapted the new style—in its inspiration, essentially a landscape style—to the great tradition of figure painting.

Although the impressionist exhibitions were the targets of much public ridicule during the 1870s, Renoir's patronage gradually increased during the decade. He became a friend of Caillebotte, one of the first patrons of the impressionists, and he was also backed by the art dealer Durand-Ruel and by collectors like Victor Choquet, the Charpentiers, and the Daidets. The artist's connection with these individuals is documented by a number of handsome portraits, for instance, Madame Charpentier and Her Children (1878).

In the 1870s Renoir also produced some of his most celebrated impressionist genre scenes, including the Swing and the Moulin de la Galette (both 1876). These works embody his most basic attitudes about art and life. They show men and women together, openly and casually enjoying a society diffused with warm, radiant sunlight. Figures blend softly into one another and into their surrounding space. Such worlds are pleasurable, sensuous, and generously endowed with human feeling.

Renoir's "Dry" Period

During the 1880s Renoir gradually separated himself from the impressionists, largely because he became dissatisfied with the direction the new style was taking in his own hands. In paintings like the Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881), he felt that his style was becoming too loose, that forms were losing their distinctiveness and sense of mass. As a result, he looked to the past for a fresh inspiration. In 1881 he traveled to Italy and was particularly impressed by the art of Raphael.

During the next 6 years Renoir's paintings became increasingly dry: he began to draw in a tight, classical manner, carefully outlining his figures in an effort to give them plastic clarity. The works from this period, such as the Umbrellas (1883) and the Grandes baigneuses (1884-1887), are generally considered the least successful of Renoir's mature expressions. Their classicizing effort seems self-conscious, a contradiction to the warm sensuality that came naturally to him.

Late Career

By the end of the 1880s Renoir had passed through his dry period. His late work is truly extraordinary: a glorious outpouring of monumental nude figures, beautiful young girls, and lush landscapes. Examples of this style include the Music Lesson (1891), Young Girl Reading (1892), and Sleeping Bather (1897). In many ways, the generosity of feeling in these paintings expands upon the achievements of his great work in the 1870s.

Renoir's health declined severely in his later years. In 1903 he suffered his first attack of rheumatoid arthritis and settled for the winter at Cagnes-sur-Mer. By this time he faced no financial problems, but the arthritis made painting painful and often impossible. Nevertheless, he continued to work, at times with a brush tied to his crippled hand. Renoir died at Cagnes-sur-Mer on Dec. 3, 1919, but his death was preceded by an experience of supreme triumph: the state had purchased his portrait Madame Georges Charpentier (1877), and he traveled to Paris in August to see it hanging in the Louvre.

Further Reading

An intimate biography of Renoir is by his son, Jean Renoir, Renoir: My Father (trans. 1962). A standard monograph on the artist is Albert C. Barnes and Violette De Mazia, The Art of Renoir (1935). Renoir's drawings are richly represented in Renoir Drawings, edited by John Rewald (1946). For a complete survey of impressionism and Renoir's relation to the movement see Rewald's The History of Impressionism (1946; rev. ed. 1961). A more general survey, also of high quality, is Phoebe Pool, Impressionism (1967). □

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Renoir, Pierre Auguste

Pierre Auguste Renoir

Born: February 25, 1841
Limoges, France
Died: December 3, 1919
Cagnes-sur-Mer, France

French painter

The French painter Pierre Auguste Renoir was one of the central figures of the impressionist movement (a French art movement of the second half of the nineteenth century whose members sought in their works to represent the first impression of an object upon the viewer). His work is characterized by a richness of feeling and a warmth of response to the world and to the people in it.

Early life

Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, France, on February 25, 1841, the sixth of Léonard Renoir and Marguerite Merlet's seven children. His father was a tailor, and his mother was a dressmaker. His family moved to Paris, France, in 1844. Because he showed a remarkable talent for drawing, Renoir became an apprentice (one who works for someone in order to learn his or her trade) in a porcelain factory, where he painted plates. Later, after the factory had gone out of business, he worked for his older brother, decorating fans. Throughout these early years Renoir made frequent visits to the Louvre (the world's largest and most famous art museum, located in Paris), where he studied the art of earlier French masters, particularly those of the eighteenth centuryAntoine Watteau (16841721), François Boucher (17031770), and Jean Honoré Fragonard (17321806). His deep respect for these artists influenced his own painting throughout his career.

Early career

In 1862 Renoir decided to study painting seriously and entered the studio of the painter Charles Gleyre, where he met other artists such as Claude Monet (18401926), Alfred Sisley (18391899), and Jean Frédéric Bazille (18411870). During the next six years Renoir's art showed the influence of Gustave Courbet (18191877) and Édouard Manet (18321883), the two most innovative (doing things in a new way) painters of the 1850s and 1860s. Courbet's influence is especially evident in the bold Diane Chasseresse (1867), while Manet's influence can be seen in the flat tones of Alfred Sisley and His Wife (1868). Still, both paintings reveal a sense of intimacy (closeness) that is characteristic of Renoir's personal style.

The 1860s were difficult years for Renoir. At times he was too poor to buy paints or canvas, and the Salons (exhibitions, or displays) of 1866 and 1867 rejected his works. The following year the Salon accepted his painting Lise, a portrait (picture of a person, especially their face) of his girlfriend, Lise Tréhot. He continued to develop his work and to study the paintings of other artists of the daynot only Courbet and Manet, but Camille Corot (17961875) and Eugène Delacroix (17981863) as well. Renoir's debt to Delacroix is apparent in the lush (appealing to the senses) Odalisque (1870).

Renoir and impressionism

A revolution was beginning in French painting. A number of young painters began to rebel against the traditions of Western painting and went directly to nature for their inspiration and into the actual society of which they were a part. As a result, their works revealed a look of freshness that in many ways departed from the look of Old Master painting. The new art displayed bright light and color instead of the solemn browns and blacks of previous painting. These qualities, among others, signaled the beginning of impressionist art.

In 1869 Renoir and Monet worked together at La Grenouillère, a bathing spot on the river Seine. Both artists became interested in painting light and water. According to Phoebe Pool (1967), this was a key moment in the development of impressionism, for it "was there that Renoir and Monet made their discovery that shadows are not brown or black but are coloured by their surroundings, and that the 'local colour' of an object is modified by the light in which it is seen, by reflections from other objects and by contrast with juxtaposed [placed side by side] colours."

The styles of Renoir and Monet were almost identical at this time, a sign of the dedication with which they pursued and shared their new discoveries. During the 1870s they continued to work together at times, although their styles generally developed in more personal directions. In 1874 Renoir participated in the first impressionist exhibition; his works included the Opera Box. Of all the impressionists, Renoir most thoroughly adapted the new style to the great tradition of figure painting.

Although the impressionist exhibitions were the targets of much public scorn during the 1870s, Renoir's popularity gradually increased during this time. He became a friend of Caillebotte, one of the first supporters of the impressionists, and he was also backed by several art dealers and collectors. The artist's connection with these individuals is documented by a number of handsome portraits, for instance, Madame Charpentier and Her Children (1878). In the 1870s Renoir also produced some of his most celebrated impressionist scenes, including the Swing and the Moulin de la Galette (both 1876). These works show men and women together, openly and casually enjoying a society bathed in warm sunlight. Figures blend softly into one another and into their surrounding space. These paintings are pleasurable and full of human feeling.

Renoir's "dry" period

During the 1880s Renoir began to separate himself from the impressionists, largely because he became unhappy with the direction the new style was taking in his own hands. In paintings like the Luncheon of the Boating Party (188081), he felt that his style was becoming too loose and that forms were becoming less distinct. As a result, he looked to the past for a fresh inspiration. In 1881 he traveled to Italy and was particularly impressed by the art of Raphael (14831520).

During the next six years Renoir's paintings became increasingly dry: he began to draw in a tight, classical manner, carefully outlining his figures in an effort to give them increased clarity. The works from this period, such as the Umbrellas (1883) and the Grandes baigneuses (188487), are generally considered the least successful of Renoir's mature expressions.

Late career

By the end of the 1880s Renoir had passed through his dry period. His late work is truly remarkable: a glorious outpouring of nude figures, beautiful young girls, and lush landscapes. Examples of this style include the Music Lesson (1891), Young Girl Reading (1892), and Sleeping Bather (1897). In many ways, the generosity of feeling in these paintings expands on the achievements of his great work in the 1870s.

Renoir's health declined severely in his later years. In 1903 he suffered his first attack of arthritis (a painful swelling of the joints) and settled for the winter at Cagnes-sur-Mer, France. The arthritis made painting painful and often impossible. Still, he continued to work, at times with a brush tied to his crippled hand. Renoir died at Cagnes-sur-Mer on December 3, 1919, but not before an experience of supreme triumph: the state had purchased his portrait Madame Georges Charpentier (1877), and he traveled to Paris in August to see it hanging in the Louvre.

For More Information

Castellani, Francesca. Renoir: His Life and Works. Philadelphia: Courage Books, 1998.

Renoir, Jean. Renoir: My Father. Edited by Randolph and Dorothy Weaver. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962. Reprint, New York: New York Review Books, 2001.

White, Barbara Ehrlich. Renoir, His Life, Art, and Letters. New York: Abrams, 1984.

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Renoir, Pierre Auguste

Pierre Auguste Renoir (pyĕr ōgüst´ rənwär´), 1841–1919, French impressionist painter and sculptor, b. Limoges. Renoir went to work at the age of 13 in Paris as a decorator of factory-made porcelain, copying the works of Boucher. In 1862 he entered M. C. Gleyre's studio, where he formed lasting friendships with Bazille, Monet and Sisley. His early work reflected myriad influences including those of Courbet, Manet, Corot, Ingres and Delacroix. He began to earn his living with portraiture in the 1870s; an important work of this period was Madame Charpentier and her Children (1876; Metropolitan Mus.). Simultaneously he developed the ability to paint joyous, shimmering color and flickering light in outdoor scenes such as The Swing and the festive Moulin de la Galette (both: 1876; Louvre). Renoir traveled in Algeria and in Italy (1881–82), returning to Paris where a successful exhibition (1883) established him financially. He had gone beyond impressionism. His ecstatic sensuality, particularly in his opulent, generalized images of women, and his admiration of the Italian masters removed him from the primary impressionist concern: to imitate the effects of natural light. After a brief period, often termed "harsh" or "tight," in which his forms were closely defined in outline (e.g., The Bathers, 1884–87; private coll.), his style of the 1890s changed, diffusing both light and outline, and with dazzling, opalescent colors describing voluptuous nudes, radiant children, and lush summer landscapes. From 1903, Renoir fought the encroaching paralysis of arthritis at the same time that his work attained its greatest sensual power and monumentality. Despite illness and personal tragedy he began to produce major works of sculpture (e.g., Victorious Venus, Renoir Mus., Cagnes-sur-Mer). Among his most celebrated paintings are: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881; Phillips Coll., Washington, D.C.); Dance at Bougival (1883; Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston); Lady Sewing (Art Inst., Chicago); and Bather (1917–18; Philadelphia Mus. of Art). Renoir's work is represented in most of the important galleries in the world. The Art Institute of Chicago; the Barnes Collection, Merion, Pa.; Clark Institute, Williamstown, Mass.; and the Louvre have large collections. His son, the film director Jean Renoir, wrote a biography (tr. 1962).

See studies by W. Gaunt (1983), D. Rouart (1985), and A. Distel (1995).

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Renoir, (Pierre) Auguste

Renoir, (Pierre) Auguste (1841–1919) French Impressionist painter. In 1874, he contributed to the first exhibition of Impressionism and masterpieces of this period include La Loge (1874) and Le Moulin de la Galette (1876). In the early 1880s, Renoir became interested in the human figure with such works as Bathers (1884–87) and After the Bath (c.1895).

http://www.musee-orsay.fr; http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk; http://www.nga.gov

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