Renoir, Pierre-Auguste


Born: Limoges, 1841
Died: Cagnes-sur-Mer, 1919

Renoir was born in 1841 and had a long and distinguished life as an artist until his death in 1919 in Cagnes, France. In his last years, even in the face of crippling adversity, Renoir was able to impart through his art work his exuberance and immense optimism.

In 1845 his family moved to Paris. Between 1856 and 1859 he took an apprenticeship and then worked as a porcelain painter, also taking evening classes in drawing. He then studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He was a fellow student of Monet, Sisley and Bazille; he went on summer painting trips with them to Chailly and Fountainbleau. He studied the eighteenth century paintings in the Louvre and also met Corot, Millet and Diaz. In 1864 his work was first accepted at the Salon. During the 1870s he painted with Monet at Argenteuil and elsewhere, and came to know Cezanne, Dega, Pissarro, etc. In 1874 his work was included in the first Impressionist exhibition (and in three of the subsequent seven.) From the late 1870s on he enjoyed increased success at the Salons, especially with portraiture. Eventually, he became dissatisfied with Impressionism and felt renewed admiration for Ingres, Raphael and eighteenth-century art. During the 1880s he worked increasingly in the south of France.

Renoir's early work as a porcelain painter reflects two constant characteristics of his art; an enormous natural facility and a dedication to eighteenth century standards of decoration and craftsmanship. Apart from the personality of his brushwork, the main distinction of his 1870s Impressionism was his preoccupation with the figure as subject matter and particularly with the gay vitality of Parisian life. Less rigorously introspective than Monet, he made his reputation at the Salons from the late 1870s with a series of fashionable portraits. Here his dexterity was combined with anecdotal charm.

The paintings of the Impressionist movement, which flourished in France from the late 1860s, enjoy an unparalleled popularity among art lovers today, and no more so than those of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. His luscious representations of contented families, cheerful dancers and sun-drenched landscapes seem to recreate for the modern viewer a lost paradise.

The art of Renoir expresses the unique relationship between the artist and nature; the harmony between the man and his world. The lithographs after Renoir are a symbol of unfailing courage and love of life itself.