The Pierre Renoir Biography

Renoir Biography

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Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841 - 1919)

Pierre-Auguste 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).

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.

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