Vincent Art Gallery Logo Art Gallery

About Pierre Auguste Renoir


Renoir, Pierre Auguste (1841-1919), French impressionist painter, noted for his radiant, intimate paintings, particularly of the female nude. He is also known for his harmonious lines and brilliant colors. The son of an impecunious tailor, he moved with his family to Paris in 1844. He Was apprenticed as a painter to a Paris porcelain-maker, 1854-1858, and then painted fans and blinds. From 1860 to 1864 he studied painting under Gleyre and the Academy, where he met Bazille, Monet and Sisley who became life-long friends. The young painters worked together, copied the old masters in the Louvre, or painted at Barbizon in the open. Renoir exhibited at the Salon in 1864 and 1865, but was rejected by the Salon in 1866 and 1867. Together with Monet he stayed in 1867 with Bazille, with whom he shared a studio between 1868 and 1870, frequented the Café Guerbois and met Manet. When living in Bougival in 1869, he developed with Monet in Argenteuil and took part in the first three Impressionist Exhibitions, 1874-1877, and showed his work at the Salon, 1878-1881. 

He gained recognition in 1874, at the first exhibition of painters of the new school of impressionism. Renoir fully established his reputation with a solo exhibition in Paris in 1883. In 1880 he met his future wife, Aline Charigot. He broke his right arm and painted with his left hand. In 1881 he visited Algeria, and later went to Italy. In 1882 he painted a portrait of Richard Wagner in Palermo and visited Cézanne in L'Éstaque. Visits to Jersey, Guernsey and the Côte d'Azur followed. His work was now sometimes characterized by firmly outlined, rounded figures. In 1886 he exhibited with the Les XX group in Brussels, also in New York through Durand-Ruel, and at G. Petit in Paris, but refused to show his work at the Paris World Exhibition in 1889. 

In 1887 he completed a series of studies of a group of nude female figures known as the Bathers (Philadelphia Museum of Art). These reveal his ability to depict the color and texture of skin and to impart lyrical feeling to a subject; they are unsurpassed in the history of modern painting as representations of feminine grace. 

He married Aline in 1890, with whom he was to have three sons. During this period he returned to painting in intense colours and loose brushwork, producing mainly nudes and landscapes. For the first time in 1892 he French nation bought one of his pictures, in a transaction arranged by Mallarmé. Visits to Spain and Brittany (Pont-Aven) followed. In 1894 Renoir was executor of Caillebotte's will in which he left his collection of Impressionist paintings to the nation. During a visit to Germany he visited Bayreuth and Dresden in 1896. He again broke his arm when he fell off his bicycle in 1897. In 1898 he visited Holland. He began to suffer from rheumatism, and after 1899 spent much of his time in southern France. In 1900 he was represented in the centenary exhibition of French art at the Paris World Exhibition, and was made a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.

His work was also increasingly shown abroad. During this time his health deteriorated further, his hands becoming crippled with gout. In 1904 he bought the house "Les Colettes" in Cagnes (near Nice). A retrospective of his work was held at the 9th Bienale in Venice in 1910. During that year he visited Munich. In 1911 he was made an Officer of the Legion of Honour, in collaboration with R. Guino he began to produce sculpture in 1913. In 1919 he became Commander of the Legion of Honour and one of his paintings was hung in the Louvre.

Like Monet, Renoir delighted in painting family scenes and depicting life in the city and the country. Pure landscapes were unusual for Renoir; his main interest was in people, and women held a special fascination for him. He also produced still lifes and portraits. Although he adopted the broken brushwork of the Impressionists, his works had a character of their own, distinguishing themselves from those of Monet, Sisley, and Pissarro though their gaiety and brilliance of colour.

During the last 20 years of his life Renoir was crippled by arthritis; unable to move his hands freely, he continued to paint by using a brush strapped to his arm.