Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French painter who led the art world in the development of the
Impressionistic Style of painting. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to
Watteau". His work is characterized by a richness of feeling and a warmth of response to the world and to the people in it.
Born February 25, 1841, in Limoges, France. Pierre-Auguste Renoir was raised in Paris and from an early age he showed an exceptional talent for drawing. He was soon painting plates as an apprentice in a porcelain factory, and then worked for his older brother decorating fans. During these early years, Renoir would frequent the Louvre to study such French masters as Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, and Jean Honoré Fragonard. Pierre-Auguste Renoir studied painting formally in 1862-63 at the academy of the Swiss painter Charles Gabriel Gleyre in Paris. Renoir's early work was influenced by two French artists, Claude Monet in his treatment of light and the romantic painter Eugène Delacroix in his treatment of color. Pierre-Auguste Renoir struggled both financially and emotionally throughout the 1860s as Paris’ renowned state-run art show, the Salon, frequently rejected his works. At times during the 1860s, Renoir lacked the funds to buy paint. In 1869, the Salon accepted his painting "Lise". Renoir's recognition in the art world did not come quickly, due, in part, to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet painted together at La Grenouillère, a bathing spot on the Seine, in 1869. Captivated with the play of light on water, the artists became obsessed with shadow and reflection and the local surroundings. This was a key moment in the development of Impressionism, for it "was there that Renoir and Monet made their discovery that shadows are not brown or black but are colored by their surroundings, and that the local color of an object is modified by the light in which it is seen, by reflections from other objects and by contrast with juxtaposed colors. At the time, the styles of the two artists were virtually identical, which shows how closely they collaborated with one another and shared discoveries. In 1874, after being snubbed by the official Salon for their renegade painting styles, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and other Impressionist painters such as Monet, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Berthe Morisot established their own independent exhibition. One of Renoir’s most notable works was "The Theater Box "(shown above), which showed his fondness for rich and freely handled figurative expression.
Although the impressionist exhibitions were the targets of public scorn during the 1870s, Renoir's popularity gradually increased during this time. He became a friend of Caillebotte, one of the first supporters of the impressionists, and he was also backed by several art dealers and collectors. Renoir began to achieve success as a portraitist in the late 1870s. One of these paintings was "Madame Charpentier and Her Children" (1878). One of the most famous of all impressionist works is Renoir's "Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette" (shown here), an open-air scene of a café, in which his mastery in figure painting and in representing light is evident. Pierre-Auguste Renoir was freed from financial worries after the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel began buying his work regularly in 1881.
By this time Renoir felt he had travelled as far as Impressionism could take him, and a visit to Italy in 1881-82 inspired him to seek a greater sense of solidarity in his work. When Renoir traveled to Italy he went to see Titian's masterpieces in Florence, and the paintings of Raphael in Rome. On January 15, 1882 Renoir met the composer Richard Wagner at his home in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir painted Wagner's portrait in just thirty-five minutes. In the same year, Pierre-Auguste Renoir convalesced for six weeks in Algeria after contracting pneumonia, which would cause permanent damage to his respiratory system.
The change of Renoir's artistic style is seen in "The Umbrellas" , which was evidently begun before the visit to Italy and finished afterwards. The two little girls on the right are painted with the feathery brush-strokes characteristic of his Impressionist manner, but the figures on the left are done in a crisper and drier style, with duller coloring. It shows a new attention to design as a well-defined scheme of arrangement. The umbrellas form a linear pattern which is far from standard impressionistic style. The linear element is also being stressed in the young modiste's bandbox, the little girl's hoop and the umbrella handles. In this care for definite form, apparent also in the figures at the left, one can see a discontent with Impressionism and a search for a firmer basis of style that would date the work to about 1883-1884, after his travels abroad and the revision he brought into his ideas. It is unlikely that it preceded the "Muslim Festival" of 1881 and more probably represents a subsequent reaction. The Cézanne-like treatment of the tree at the back also suggests it was painted after Renoir stayed with him at L'Estaque in 1882. The children and the lady with them are more indicative of the style of the 'seventies than the rest of the picture which may well have passed through stages of repainting over a period. The charm of the whole is nevertheless able to overcome the feeling of slight discrepancy that may result from close examination..
Renoir's late work is truly remarkable: a glorious outpouring of nude figures, beautiful young girls, and lush landscapes. Examples of this style include the "Music Lesson "(1891), "Young Girl Reading" (1892), and "Sleeping Bather" (1897). In many ways, the generosity of feeling in these paintings expands on the achievements of his great work in the 1870s.