Pierre-Auguste Renoir is perhaps the best loved of all the Impressionists. The subjects he chose – beautiful children, flowers, country scenes, and of course lovely women, hold great appeal for aficionados and reflect the love and care with which he painted. Also, more than any of the Impressionists, he found beauty and charm in the modern sights of Paris.
Renoir was born in 1841 in the town of Limoges. The family moved to Paris when Auguste was four years old. As a teenager he worked as a porcelain painter where his love for painting began. He studied under a Swiss teacher named Gleyer where he first met Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Jean-Frederic Bazille, the future Impressionist painters. He was also befriended by Camile Pissarro and Paul Cezanne. By 1863, the nucleus of the Impressionist group was formed.
The Impressionists started painting outdoors which was considered revolutionary at the time. Renoir and Monet spent the summer of 1869 at an exclusive retreat near Paris which was famous for La Grenouillere, a restaurant and bathing place on a small branch of the Seine. They both produced several paintings at this venue which are known as Les Grenouilleres.
The Impressionists banded together because it was so difficult to have their paintings selected by the Salon de Paris. They decided to have their own exhibition which critics called Impressionistic, which is where the term began.
Renoir was influenced by the use of color by Eugene Delacroix and the radiance in the paintings of Camille Corot. Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet depicted realism which also impressed Renoir. He greatly admired Edgar Degas and Francois Boucher. His works reflect the characteristics which he admired in these colleagues.
When he was 49 years old, Renoir married one of his models, Aline Charigot, with whom he already had a child. They eventually had three sons – Pierre, Jean and Claude. Aline had been one of the models for his painting called Luncheon of the Boating Party in 1881. This is my favorite Renoir painting. Susan Vreeland has written a fictionalized version of Renoir’s life as he gathered his friends together to create this painting. Refer to the following for a review of her book which she called Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis in 1892 which caused him to move to a warmer climate on the Mediterranean coast. For the last twenty years of his life, his arthritis severely limited his movement and he was confined to a wheelchair. He painted with his brush tied to his wrists. Renoir passed away in 1919.
Pierre Renoir, Auguste’s oldest son, became a stage and film actor. His son Jean became a noted film director. In 1962, Jean wrote a touching and lively biography of his father entitled Renoir, My Father.
See the first article of this series – The Painting Masters – Claude Monet – Impressionist – #1