The French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919) was a pioneer in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, particularly feminine sensuality, it has been stated that "Renoir is the final representative of a lineage that runs directly from Rubens to Watteau."
He was the father of actors Pierre Renoir (1885–1952), Jean Renoir (1894–1977), and Claude Renoir (ceramicist) (1901–1969). He was the grandfather of Pierre Renoir's son, the filmmaker Claude Renoir (1913–1992) Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, in 1841. His father, Léonard Renoir, was a tailor of little means, so his family went to Paris in 1844 in quest of better opportunities. Their residence on rue d'Argenteuil in the heart of Paris placed Renoir close to the Louvre. Although young Renoir had a natural propensity for drawing, he demonstrated a greater aptitude for singing. Charles Gounod, who was the choirmaster at the Church of Saint Roch at the time, fostered his talent. Renoir had to abandon his music lessons and leave school at the age of thirteen to pursue an apprenticeship in a porcelain factory due to his family's financial situation.
Renoir was a talented artist, but he frequently became weary of his subject matter and sought sanctuary in the Louvre's galleries. The factory owner saw his apprentice's aptitude and sent this information to Renoir's family. Renoir then began taking classes to prepare for admission to École des Beaux-Arts. In 1858, when the porcelain business implemented mechanical replication procedures, Renoir was compelled to find alternative means to finance his education. Before enrolling in art school, he painted wall hangings for missionaries and fan decorations.
In 1862, he began studying art in Paris with Charles Gleyre. There, he met Claude Monet, Frédéric Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. Throughout the 1860s, he did not always have enough money to purchase paint. Lise with a Parasol (1867), which showed his lover at the time, Lise Tréhot, was Renoir's first success in the Salon of 1868. Although Renoir began exhibiting paintings at the Paris Salon in 1864, he was not immediately recognized, due in part to the instability of the Franco-Prussian War.
During the Paris Commune of 1871, as Renoir was painting on the banks of the Seine River, some Communards mistook him for a spy and were about to toss him into the water. However, Commune leader Raoul Rigault recognized Renoir as the man who had previously protected him. In 1874, Renoir's ten-year friendship with Jules Le Coeur and his family came to an end, and he lost not only the significant support he had acquired from the association, but also a gracious invitation to stay on their property near Fontainebleau and its picturesque forest. This loss of a preferred painting location led to a distinct shift in subject matter.
Renoir was influenced by the style and subject matter of Pissarro and Manet, two modern painters who came before him. After a series of rejections by the Salon judges, he joined forces with Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, and several other painters to stage the first Impressionist show in April 1874, in which Renoir displayed six paintings. Although the majority of the exhibition's reviews were negative, Renoir's work was relatively well received. That same year, two of his pieces were presented with Durand-Ruel in London.
Renoir exhibited primarily portraits in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876 in an effort to earn a living through portrait assignments. He provided a more wide variety of paintings the next year when the group staged its third exhibition; they were Dancing at Le Moulin de la Galette and The Swing. Renoir did not participate in the fourth or fifth Impressionist exhibits; instead, he returned to submitting works to the Salon. At the end of the 1870s, particularly with the success of his work Mme Charpentier and her Children (1878) at the Salon of 1879, Renoir was a prominent and fashionable painter.
In 1881, he journeyed to Algeria, which he linked with Eugène Delacroix, and then to Madrid to view Diego Velázquez's paintings. Following that, he flew to Italy to witness Titian's masterpieces in Florence and the works of Raphael in Rome. On 15 January 1882, Renoir met the composer Richard Wagner at his house in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir painted a portrait of Wagner in about thirty-five minutes. Renoir recuperated in Algeria for six weeks in the same year that he contracted pneumonia that permanently ruined his lungs.
In 1883, Renoir spent the summer in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel with beaches, cliffs, and bays, where he produced fifteen paintings in less than a month. Moulin Huet, a bay in Saint Martin's, Guernsey, is depicted in the majority of these images. These artworks were the subject of a pair of commemorative postage stamps issued by the Bailiwick of Guernsey in 1983.
While living and working in Montmartre, Renoir employed Suzanne Valadon as a model; she posed for him (The Large Bathers, 1884–1887; Dance at Bougival, 1883) and many of his fellow painters; during this time, she studied their techniques and went on to become one of the most prominent painters of her time.
In 1887, the year in which Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee, and at the request of the queen's associate, Phillip Richbourg, Renoir contributed numerous works to the collection of "French Impressionist Art" as a sign of his commitment.
In 1890, he wed Aline Victorine Charigot, a dressmaker twenty years his junior, who, along with a number of the artist's friends, had served as a model for Le Déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party; she is the woman on the left playing with the dog) in 1881, and with whom he had already fathered a son, Pierre, in 1885. After marriage, Renoir painted several pictures of his wife and ordinary family life featuring their children and their caregiver, Aline's niece Gabrielle Renard. The Renoirs had three sons: Pierre Renoir (1885–1952), who became a stage and film actor; Jean Renoir (1894–1979), who became a filmmaker of significance; and Claude Renoir (1901–1969), who became a ceramic artist.
Around 1892, Renoir got rheumatoid arthritis. In 1907, he relocated to the warmer environment of "Les Collettes," a farm in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, along the Mediterranean coast. Renoir continued to paint during the last two decades of his life, despite the fact that arthritis severely restricted his mobility. The progressive deformities in his hands and right shoulder necessitated a modification in his painting technique. It has long been said that in the advanced stages of his arthritis, he painted by having a brush strapped to his paralyzed fingers, but this is erroneous; Renoir remained able to handle a brush, albeit he required an aide to place it in his hand. The covering of his hands with bandages, seen in late images of the artist, intended to prevent skin discomfort.
In 1919, Renoir visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with those of the old masters. During this time, he collaborated with a young artist, Richard Guino, who worked the clay, to produce sculptures. Owing to his limited joint mobility, Renoir also utilized a movable canvas or picture roll to aid the painting of huge works.
Five years before his death, Renoir's portrait of Austrian actress Tilla Durieux (1914) includes playful specks of brilliant color on her shawl that contrast with the classical attitude of the actress and highlight Renoir's artistry. Renoir passed away on 3 December 1919 at the age of 78 in Cagnes-sur-Mer.
Alexandre Renoir, the great-grandson of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, is also a renowned artist. In 2018, the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center in Hendersonville, Tennessee exhibited his artwork under the title Beauty Remains. The exhibition's title is derived from a famous phrase by Pierre-Auguste, who, when asked why he persisted to paint in his advanced years despite suffering from terrible arthritis, responded, "The agony goes, but the beauty endures."
Renoir's paintings are distinguished by their brilliant light and saturated hues, and they frequently depict individuals in intimate and candid scenes. The naked female was one of his main topics. In 1876, however, a reviewer in Le Figaro said, "Try to explain to Monsieur Renoir that a woman's torso is not a mass of putrefying flesh with the purple-green streaks that indicate a condition of complete putrefaction in a corpse." Yet, in typical Impressionist fashion, Renoir suggested the subtleties of a scene by loosely brushed bits of color, allowing his figures to blend seamlessly with their environment.
His early paintings reflect the influence of Eugène Delacroix's colorism and Camille Corot's luminosity. He also appreciated the realism of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet, whose use of black as a color is reflected in his early work. Renoir liked Edgar Degas' movement sense. Renoir also admired the 18th-century master painters Francois Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
Diana, 1867, is an excellent example of Renoir's early work and demonstrates the impact of Courbet's realism. The picture depicts an ostensibly mythological topic, yet it is a naturalistic studio piece; the person has been meticulously examined, solidly modeled, and superimposed on a fabricated scene. If the work is a "student" piece, then Renoir's heightened personal sensitivity to the sensuality of women is evident. The model was the artist's mistress at the time, Lise Tréhot, who inspired a lot of paintings.
In the late 1860s, he and his friend Claude Monet realized, through the technique of painting light and water en plein air (outdoors), that the color of shadows is not brown or black, but rather the reflected color of the objects surrounding them, a phenomenon known today as diffuse reflection. Renoir and Monet collaborated on several pairs of paintings depicting identical settings (La Grenouillère, 1869).
Renoir's 1876 Dancing at Le Moulin de la Galette is among the best-known Impressionist paintings (Bal du moulin de la Galette). The artwork depicts a packed outdoor scene at a popular dancing garden on the Butte Montmartre near his residence. His early works were classic Impressionist depictions of everyday life, brimming with brilliant color and light.
Midway through the 1880s, he broke away from the trend in order to apply a more disciplined formal style to portraits and figure paintings, especially of women. A journey to Italy in 1881, during which he viewed the paintings of Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, and other Renaissance masterpieces, persuaded him that he was following the wrong path. At that point, he claimed, "I had reached the limits of Impressionism and recognized I was incapable of painting or drawing."
In an effort to return to classicism, he painted in a more harsh style for the next several years. During his "Ingres period," he created works such as Blonde Bather (1881 and 1882) and The Large Bathers (1884–87; Philadelphia Museum of Art) in which he focused on his sketching and emphasized the outlines of figures.
Following 1890, he changed course once more. As in his previous work, he returned to thinly-brushed color to dissolve outlines.
Girls at the Piano (1892) and Grandes Baigneuses (1887) are excellent instances of his focus on monumental nudity and domestic situations during this time period. The latter painting is the most representative and successful of Renoir's late, fleshy nudes.
Being a prolific artist, he produced thousands of paintings. Renoir's paintings are among the most well-known and frequently reproduced in the history of art due to the sensuality of his style. The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia is home to the largest collection of his works, 181 paintings in total.
Bernheim-Jeune released a five-volume catalogue raisonné of Renoir's works (with one supplement) between 1983 and 2014. Bernheim-Jeune is the only major art dealer Renoir utilized who still exists. The Wildenstein Institute is preparing a critical catalogue of Renoir's work, but it has not yet been released. The second episode of the fourth season of the television series Fake or Fortune focused on a debate between these two organizations regarding an unsigned work in Picton Castle.
Renowned art dealer Ambroise Vollard published La Vie et l'uvre de Pierre-Auguste Renoir in an edition of one thousand copies in 1919. In 1986, the descendants of Vollard began reproducing the copper plates, which were often etchings with hand-applied watercolor. These prints are signed in the plate by Renoir and have "Vollard" stamped in the lower margin. They are not pencil-numbered, dated, or signed.
A miniature version of Bal du moulin de la Galette was auctioned for $78.1 million at Sotheby'sin New York on 17 May 1990.
The Paysage Bords de Seine by Renoir was put up for auction in 2012, however it was determined that the painting had been stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951. The sale was voided.
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