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Pierre Auguste Renoir

 (1841 - 1919)
Pierre Auguste Renoir was active/lived in France.  Pierre Renoir is known for impressionist and post impressionist figure and landscape painting.

Pierre Auguste Renoir

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Biography from the Archives of askART

Renoir was born on February 25, 1841, in the small manufacturing town of Limoges. His family moved to Paris when he was four years old.  Gounod advised him to become a musician, but Renoir felt more compulsion toward the graphic arts.  At thirteen he joined a ceramic establishment where he painted flowers on porcelain. Later he supported himself by decorating fans.  In 1861 he joined the Gleyre atelier where Sisley, Monet and Bazille were also studying.  None of them was very happy there, but Renoir especially was out of sympathy with the academic atmosphere of the place.  When the master accused him of seeking amusement from painting, he replied that of course he did, or he would otherwise abandon the pursuit.  After a year he began to work without a teacher, adapting Courbet's trick of using a palette knife, and painting with purer and lighter colors.

He first exhibited in 1868; he also participated in the famous Nadar exhibition of Impressionists in 1874.  He was dependent on portraiture for his living until the auctions of his works in 1875 and 1877 which brought him some independence and enabled him to travel.  In 1883 a sort of break occurred in his work.  He felt he had gone to the end of Impressionism; he was reaching the conclusion that he did not know how to paint or draw.  This bewilderment and discouragement, though exaggerated, had a salutary effect, for Renoir reviewed his methods, again studied the works of old masters whom he loved and went on painting pictures, better than before.

By the 1890s Renoir was well settled into family life.  Owing to his delicate bronchial tubes, he and his wife with their young son Pierre spent the winters by the Mediterranean and often in summer visited seaside spots on the Channel.  In 1893, a second son, Jean, was born.  Jean Renoir was to become the now famous movie director.

Suffering from failing eyesight in his later years, Renoir began to use stronger colors. His last years were spent in Provence where he continued to paint although he could only get about in a wheelchair and his hand was so crippled with arthritis that his brush had to be strapped to his wrist.  He could no longer get far from the house, but finding he could paint every day he was contented. He died in Cagnes.

Sources include:
Masterpieces of Art, Catalogue of the New York World's Fair 1940
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: French Impressionists and Figure Painting by Renoir

Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art
Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, France, on February 25, 1841, the sixth of Leonard Renoir and Marguerite Merlet's seven children.  His father was a tailor and his mother was a dressmaker.  His family moved to Paris in 1844. Showing a remarkable talent for drawing, Renoir became an apprentice in a porcelain factory where he painted designs on fine china.  Later, after the factory had closed, he worked for his older brother, decorating fans, blinds and signs.  Throughout these early years Renoir made frequent visits to the Louvre where he studied and developed a deep respect for the art of 18th Century French Rococo Masters.

In 1862 Renoir began to study painting seriously and entered the studio of the painter Charles Gleyre, where he met other artists such as Claude Monet.  The 1860s were difficult years for Renoir.  At times he was too poor to buy paints or canvas, and the national Salons of 1866 and 1867 rejected his artworks.  The following year the Salon accepted his portrait of his girlfriend, Lise Trehot. Renoir continued to develop his work and to study the paintings of other artists of the day such as Manet and Courbet.

A revolution was beginning in French painting during the 1860s.  A group of young painters began to rebel against the traditions of Western painting which was steeped in Realism.  These artists began to paint outdoors, using nature as their inspiration, in an attempt to capture the nuances of light and atmosphere with quick bold strokes of color.  As a result, their works revealed a look of freshness that rapidly departed from the style of the Old Masters.  These new works were initially shunned by the public and art critics who considered them unfinished, underdeveloped and mere 'impressions' of subjects.  The critic's insult stuck and Impressionism was born.  The group, which included Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Cassatt, Degas and others, were unable to gain acceptance into the official Salons and eventually created their own series of exhibitions called the Salon des Refuses.

Although the Impressionist exhibitions were the targets of much public scorn, Renoir's popularity gradually increased and in time, he was backed by loyal art dealers and devoted collectors.  His works depicted men and women together in casual social settings, vibrant intimate portraits, voluptuous nudes and lush landscapes full of emotion.  In 1890, at the age of 49, Renoir made his first etching La Danse a la Compagne, based on his 1883 painting, which featured his brother Edmond and painter Suzanne Valadon.  Renoir would eventually create approximately 55 different etchings and lithographs in his recognizable style.

In 1890 Renoir married Aline Charigot, his companion of almost ten years.  They would have three sons in all.  The artist quickly incorporated his family and relatives into his later works.  It was during these later years that Renoir further developed his unique style—a blend of Classicism and Impressionism which featured radiant nude bathers and tender familial scenes.

Renoir's health declined severely in his later years.  In 1903 he suffered his first attack of arthritis and settled for the warmer climes at Cagnes-sur-Mer, in the South of France.  The arthritis made painting painful, yet he continued to work, at times with a brush inserted between his crippled fingers.  Pierre-Auguste Renoir died at Cagnes-sur-Mer on December 3, 1919, but not before experiencing a major artistic triumph: the State had purchased his 1877 portrait Madame Georges Charpentier and he traveled to Paris in August to see it hanging in the Louvre.

"You come to nature with all her theories, and she knocks them all flat."

Museum Collections:
Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Frick Collection, NY
Barnes Foundation, PA
Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Musee d'Orsay, Paris
The Louvre, Paris
Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris
National Gallery, London
Tate Gallery, London
British Museum, London
Hermitage Museum, Russia

Biography from Modern Art Dealers
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges and brought up in Paris, where his father, a tailor with a large family, settled in 1845.  From the age of thirteen he worked as an apprentice painter, painting flowers on porcelain plates.  This early apprenticeship left a certain trace on his art, which was always decorative in spite of its later realism.  After machines for coloring ceramics had been introduced, he had to switch to decorating fans and screens.  Having saved some money, in 1862 Renoir entered the Atelier Gleyre and there made friends with Monet, Sisley and Bazille; some time later he met Pissarro and Cézanne.

In the 1880s, he abandoned Impressionism for what is often called the "dry style".  He began a search for solid form and stable composition, a search, which led him back to the masters of the Renaissance.  He worked more carefully and meticulously, his colors became cooler and smoother.  He later returned to hot rich colors and free brushwork of his earlier days to portray nudes in sunlight, a style, which he continued to develop to the end of his life.

In 1886, the art dealer Durand-Ruel exhibited 32 of Renoir's paintings in New York, thus opening the American market for Impressionism.  In December 1888, Renoir suffered the first attacks of arthritis, which would cripple  his hands; in 1898 after a serious attack of the disease his right arm was paralyzed. From now on he painted, overcoming strong pains, strapping a brush to his wrist.  In 1919, not long before his death, he finished, in great pain, his large-scale composition The Great Bathers (The Nymphs).

Renoir died in Cagnes, France on December 3, 1919.

Biography from Anderson Galleries, Inc.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was initially trained in the decorative arts and began studying painting in the early 1860s.  It was as a student that Renoir met several other painters interested in plein-air painting and the effects of light.  When these Impressionists began to exhibit together a decade later, Renoir suffered some of the most severe criticism aimed at the group.

While controversial at first, Renoir eventually established himself comfortably with the public and even participated in the official Salons.  By the beginning of the 20th century, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was enjoying tremendous success as an artist; he had been awarded the rank of officer of the Legion of Honor and sales of his works were flourishing.  Even as his health failed, Renoir continued to work ceaselessly and exhibit worldwide, with no less than four solo shows and seven group shows in his final years.

So great was Renoir's success that Guillaume Apollinaire referred to him in Le Petit Bleu as "the greatest painter of our time and one of the greatest painters of all times" (Barbara Ehrlich White, Renoir; His Life, Art, and Letters, New York. 1984, p. 254).

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About  Pierre Auguste Renoir

Born:  1841 - Limoges, France
Died:   1919 - Cagnes, France
Known for:  impressionist and post impressionist figure and landscape painting