Brief Biography of a Famous and Influential Artist 5: Renoir

Portrait of Renoir

RENOIR (1841-1919)

Born: Pierre-Auguste Renoir on February 25, 1841 in Limoges, Haute-Viennes, France
Died: December 3, 1919 [age 78] Cagnes-ser-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azor, France
Most Notable Works: Bal du moulin de la Galette, Luncheon of the Boating Party and Umbrellas
Pierre Renoir was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style.

The Bal du moulin de la Galette Painting

Renoir, the son of a working class family, worked in a porcelain factory as a child where his drawing talents led him to chosen to paint designs on fine china. He also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and decorations on fans before he enrolled in art school. During those years, he visited the Louvre often to study the French masters paintings. In 1862, he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet. At times during the 1860s, he did not have enough money to buy paint. Although Renoir first started exhibiting paintings at the Paris Salon in 1864, recognition did not come for another ten years, due, in part, to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.

Renoir and fellow Impressionists were consumed with the portrayal of light as it changed throughout the day and

Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party

affected their vision of a subject. In Renoir’s case, subjects were often common scenes like rivers, village people, or forests. His use of quick brush strokes emphasized his “impression” of a scene and the light that surrounded it. Perhaps he is best known for his beautiful depiction of women and girls. He often painted family members such as his wife Aline whom he married in 1887. They had three sons. Aline was a model for one of the figures in Les Dejeuner de Canotiers (1881), famously known in English as Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Renoir liked to paint outdoor scenes filled with people enjoying simple pleasures. His subjects are invariably happy and his brushstrokes convey the innate beauty in the things he saw. His paintings reveal an artist whose impression of life seemed to be infused with beauty and delight. Renoir continued to paint until his death in 1919 although severe arthritis made his artistic endeavors difficult. Aside from the paintings already mentioned, other signature works include Gabrielle and Jean (1895), Nude (1910), A Girl with a Watering Can (1876), La Loge (1874) and Two Sisters (1881).

Painting by Renoir, Umbrellas

A leader of the Impressionist movement, Pierre Auguste Renoir is one of the world’s most famous artists. His paintings are some of the world’s most reproduced works. In 1990, his signature piece, Bal du Moulin de la Galette (1876), sold for more than seventy-eight million dollars. His work is best known for its immense beauty and its adept study of light.

Not surprising, Renoir’s work, a substantial body including thousands of pieces, is collected by the world’s most prestigious art museums and collectors such as Chicago’s Art Institute, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paris’ Musee d’Orsay, and St. Petersburg’s Hermitage. Though he would die later that year, Renoir was able to visit the Louvre to witness his work hung beside the great painters of old that he visited so often as a child.