Great Personalities » Pierre Auguste Renoir

Pierre Auguste Renoir

Pierre Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, otherwise known as Auguste Renoir was a French artist, who was one of the best painters who drove the development of the impressionist style of painting. He was an advocate of beauty especially feminine sensuality. He is famous for his sensual nude paintings and his charming works of pretty women.

Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France. Coming from a working class family, he initially worked in a porcelain factory where due to his painting talents, he was chosen to paint designs on fine china. He often visited the Louvre to study the French painters during these early years. In 1862, Renoir began training under Charles Gleyre in Paris. His first success was at the Salon of 1868. His painting Lise with a Parasol was his first success. However, his recognition was slow due to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian war.

In April 1874, Renoir joined forces with Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, and other artists to put up the first impressionist exhibition. Although the responses were largely unfavorable, his work was well received. In his second exhibition, Renoir showed mostly portraits hoping to secure an income by attracting portrait commissions. His third exhibition included Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette and The Swing. This exhibition contributed a more diverse range of paintings. Post this Renoir resumed submitting his works to the Salon. The success of his works Mme Charpentier and her Children in 1878 at the Salon of 1879 led Renoir to become a successful and fashionable painter.

He travelled to Algeria in 1881 and then to Madrid to see the works of Diego Velazquez. After that, he travelled to Italy to see Titian's masterpieces. He travelled to Florence and saw the paintings of Raphael in Rome. He contracted pneumonia in the same year, which permanently damaged his respiratory system.

Hoping to recuperate, he took six weeks off and went to Algeria. Renoir spent the summer of 1883 in Guernsey. Here he produced fifteen paintings in little over a month. Most of these paintings featured Moulin Huet, a bay in Saint Martin’s in Guernsey. In 1887 Queen Victoria celebrated Golden Jubilee. Renoir, responding to a request from the queen’s associate, Phillip Richboug, donated many paintings to the “French Impressionist Paintings” catalog as a token of his loyalty to the queen. Renoir married Aline Victorine Charigot in 1890. He had a child with her, Pierre in 1885. Renoir, after his marriage painted a number of paintings with scenes of his wife and children including their nurse.

Renoir’s paintings were mostly notable for their vibrant light and saturated color. His paintings focused on intimate and candid expressions of people around him. He signified the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of color giving an impression of his characters softly fusing with one another and their surroundings. The first paintings of Renoir show the influence of Eugene Delacroix and the luminosity of Camille Corot.

The realism of Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet also influenced him. His early works reflected this with the use of black as a color. Diana, 1867 is the best example of Renoir’s work reflecting Courbet’s realism. The painting is a naturalistic studio work, modeled, carefully figured, and placed over the contrived landscape. Renoir’s heightened response to feminine sensuality is present in this painting.

Dance at Le Moulin is one of the best impressionist works of Renoir’s painted in 1876. It depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre close to where he lived. His early works were impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light.

After a trip to Italy in 1881 where he saw the works of Raphael and other Renaissance masters, he began painting in a more severe style. By doing this, Renoir returned to classicism. He now concentrated on the drawing and the outline of figures, he painted the works such as The Large Bathers during what is sometimes called his “Entry Period.” Post 1890 he returned to thinly brushed color. He concentrated on a monumental nudes and domestic scenes. Some fine examples of these paintings are Girls at the Piano, 1892 and the Grandes Baigneuses in 1887.

Around 1892 Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. He then moved to “Les Collettes” where the climate was much warmer. He moved to a farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer, which is located close to the Mediterranean coast. Even after his arthritis severely limited his mobility, Renoir kept on producing paintings during the last twenty years of his life. Due to deformities in his hands and the severe ankylosis of his right shoulder, he had to change his painting techniques. During the advanced stages of the arthritis, he painted with a brush attached to his paralyzed hand. He wrapped his hands with bandages so as to prevent skin irritation.

Renoir visited the Louvre in 1919 to see his paintings hanging with those of the old masters. During this time, he produced paintings by co-operating with a young clay artist, Richard Guino. Due to his limited mobility, he used a moving canvas to facilitate painting large works.

Renoir died on 3 December 1919 in Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur.

Renoir produced several thousand paintings, which served as an inspiration to many future painters. The warm sensuality of his work made his paintings some of the most well-known and abundantly reproduced works in the history of art. The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia houses over 181 paintings of Renoir, the single largest collection of his work.

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