Pierre-Auguste Renoir
1841 - 1919
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Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, France on February 25th, 1841.

 

Renoir began painting at the age of 13, and during his spare time, follows drawing classes. In 1860, he studies in the studio of the Swiss Charles Gleyre where he meets his artist-friends Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille, the future founders of Impressionism. Around that period, Renoir is granted permission to copy at the Louvre, where he feels inspired by the 18th century masters such as Boucher, Fragonard and Watteau. In 1862, he is admitted at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1867, Renoir's painting "Lise", an outdoor painting of his mistress Lise Tréhot, was accepted at the Salon.

 

His direct influence from Monet made his technique evolve toward small brushstrokes using vibrant colors, leading toward impressionism. Bazille, Monet and Renoir worked closely, shared new techniques, new subjects and spent the summer of 1869 at Bougival, an exclusive upper class retreat near Paris, which was famous for its Grenouillère and riverside leisure. These surroundings were to become the favorite setting for the elaboration of their outdoor painting technique and color use. Both painters worked side by side for their own "La Grenouillere". Though the young artists did have financial problems, they did persist. Renoir writes about him and Monet to his friend Bazille that year: "Although we don't eat every day, I am still quite cheerful".



It is in the 1870-ies that Renoir's technique reaches its peak. He actively participates in impressionnist exhibitions and becomes a founding member of the review "L'Impressionniste" in 1877. His technique is now firmy defined; with a masterful rendering of movement and facial expression, Renoir paints youthful portraits of his acquaintances and friends. In his large compositions, he successfully gathers numerous figures into a singular frame, while capturing the fleeting effect of light and color. His compositions are complex and require many studies on the same canvas for weeks to months in a row.



In 1880, Renoir meets Aline Charigot, whom he later marries in 1890. Among other friends, he portraits her in the "Luncheon of the Boating Party" that he executes laboriously over several months.  With this painting, he captures the specificity of a contemporary moment of 19th century leisure on the Seine, combining still life, portraiture, landscape and genre. This painting was purchased shortly after by Paul Durand-Ruel, the art dealer who played a key role in promoting his and many young artists' career. Renoir fully established his reputation with a solo exhibition held at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in Paris in 1883. In 1885, his first son Pierre is born, followed by Jean in 1894 and Claude in 1901. Renoir's paintings from the 1880s reflect a steady interest in classical art and the female nude. In 1887, he completes a series of studies of a group of nude female figures known as "The Bathers". Unsurpassed in the history of modern painting in their representation of feminine grace, they reveal a great ability to depict the soft and pearly texture of skin.



By the 1890s, the artist and his family begin to spend most of their time away from Paris, in Essoyes and in Cagnes. During the last two decades of his life, Renoir suffers from arthritis. Unable to move his hands freely, a brush would be strapped to his arm to allow him to paint. In 1913, he even begins to work with sculpture. On December 3rd, 1919, he died in Cagne at the age of 78.