Pierre- Auguste Renoir was one of the leading impressionist artists
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on February 25, 1841, in Limoges, France. He started out as an apprentice to a porcelain painter and studied drawing in his free time.
After years as a struggling painter, Renoir moved to Paris where he started studying art. He soon befriended three other young emerging French artists: Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet, and Alfred Sisley and through Monet, he met Camille Pissarro and Paul Cezanne.
Together and with others, they launched the impressionism art movement in the 1870s.
“Without him [Claude Monet] I would have given up”
-Pierre Auguste Renoir-
Renoir, Monet and others decided to show their impressionism paintings in Paris in 1874, which became known as the first Impressionist exhibition.
The group’s name was derived from a critical review of their show, in which the works were called “impressions” rather than paintings painted using traditional methods.
The impressionist artists practiced plein-air painting (painting landscapes outside), painted with brighter colors and used less refined brushstrokes, giving the pictures a more cheerful feel than the art of that period.
Their art was criticized. It would take many more years until their art form would be appreciated and accepted.
Renoir stuggles financially
While the exhibition helped raise Renoir’s profile in the art world, Renoir still struggled to make a living. He sought out commissions for portraits and often depended on the kindness of his friends, mentors, and patrons to financially get by.
As his fame grew, Renoir began to settle down. He married his longtime girlfriend Aline Charigot in 1890 and they had three children.
In his early fifties, Renoir started suffering with rheumatism, disfiguring his hands and making it difficult for him to paint.
Remarkably, Renoir’s paintings were his best works when his arthritis was at its worst. He also added sculpting to his artistic endeavors.
When he was no longer able to sculpt himself, he directed assistants to achieve what he had in mind.
For the 60 year span as an artist, Renoir’s paintings total over 6,000 masterpieces.
“For me a picture has to be something pleasant, delightful, and pretty — yes, pretty. There are enough unpleasant things in the world without us producing even more.”
Renoir moves to Cagnes-sur-Mer
The world-renowned Renoir continued to paint until his death. He lived long enough to see one of his works bought by the Louvre in 1919, a tremendous honor for any artist.
Renoir died that December at his home in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France and buried next to his wife, Aline (who died in 1915), in her hometown of Essoyes, France.
Museums to view Renoir’s paintings
If you are in Paris, you can view a rich collection of Renoir’s paintings together with the artworks of all impressionist artists in Musée D’Orsay, Musee l’Orangerie, Petit Palais and Musée Marmottan.
Also, go visit the Montmartre Museum (Musee de Montmartre). This museum is in one of oldest houses of Montmartre, where once fourteen famous personalities lived during different times. Amongst them were the artists Renoir, Valadon and her son, Utrillo and Dufy. Today, this old house with an incredible artistic past, has been converted into a wonderful museum.
In Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, Renoir’s former house is now open to the public as a museum, The Renoir Museum (musee Renoir). It is a little gem, providing you with a very personal view of the artist and his family life.
Do you love historical fiction books?
If yes, I highly recommend the wonderful book by the author Susan Vreeland called Luncheon of the Boating Party. This book is based on Renoir’s iconic painting.
The painter and the models behind this painting come alive with their stories. You are immersed into the life of 19th century Paris and the inner art circle of the impressionists. Although only historical fiction, the author has certainly done her homework. Press here for my full review.