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Eight Famous Impressionist Paintings by Renoir That You Should Know

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was a prolific French impressionism artist. Renoir, together with Monet, Degas, Manet and others, established the ground-breaking impressionism art movement. Incredibly, in his lifetime, Renoir painted several thousand paintings.

Renoir’s artworks are characterized by their soft, sensual style and vibrant, bold colors. His paintings capture impressionist snapshots of French life and leisure in the last three decades of the 19th century.

Renoir’s eight most famous impressionist paintings

La Grenouillère, 1869

Pierre August Renoir started his artistic career as a porcelain painter. In 1862, he started studying art under the guidance of Charles Gleyre. Here he met fellow students Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet.

In the summer of 1869, Renoir went together with his friend Monet to the boating and leisure resort La Grenouillère, located on the River Seine just outside of Paris. Both artists set up their easels and painted en-plein air.

This painting shows clearly how Renoir embraced the impressionism techniques. He painted with broad brushstrokes and vivid, bright colors. Check out Monet’s version of this very same place that he painted together with Renoir. They are so similiar!!

This painting is hanging today in the National Museum in Stockholm.

La Grenouillère - Impressionist Painting by Renoir [Public Domain]
La Grenouillère – Painting by Renoir [Public Domain]

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette, 1876

Renoir painted Dance at the Moulin de la Galette in 1876. This painting depicts a Sunday afternoon at the Moulin de la Galette  in Montmartre, named after one of the three windmills in the neighborhood. Every Sunday this venue held open-air dances, starting early in the afternoon until midnight.

To capture this scene, Renoir set up a studio in a old cottage nearby. In this painting we get a glimpse into the the vibrant social life of 19th century Paris.

This very famous Renoir painting can be viewed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

Bal du moulin de la Galette - Famous impressionist painting by Renoir
  Dance at the Moulin de la Galette – Famous impressionist painting by Renoir [Public Domain]

The Swing, 1876

Renoir painted The Swing  (La balançoire) also in 1876. He had rented a cottage in the gardens so that he could be closer to the Moulin de la Galette  to paint the Bal du moulin de la Galette. The location of this painting are in what are now the Musée de Montmartre gardens. The swing is still there!

This painting is showcased at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

The Swing  (La balançoire) - Famous impressionist painting by Renoir
The Swing (La balançoire) – by Pierre Auguste Renoir [Public Domain]

Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881

Luncheon of the Boating Party  is one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir‘s most famous impressionist paintings. The painting was painted in 1880-1881, giving the viewer a peek into an outdoor luncheon in 19th century France. It captures an enjoyable moment between friends. The location is the Maison Fournaise restaurant situated on an island in the Seine in Chatou (today called the impressionist Island, a place that you can visit today).

Pierre Auguste Renoir used some of his friends to pose for this painting. Two of these friends include an affluent art patron and fellow impressionism painter Gustave Caillebotte (who sits in the lower right corner) and Renoir’s mistress, muse and future wife, Aline Charigot (playing with a dog). This painting was bought by the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, and today belongs to the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.

If you love reading historical fiction novels, check out Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland. The author makes all the characters in this painting (who were actual people) come to life.

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Luncheon of the Boating Party - Pierre August Renoir famous painting
Luncheon of the Boating Party – A Famous Impressionist Painting by Renoir

Two Sisters, 1881

Renoir worked on the Two Sisters painting on the balcony of the Maison Fournaise restaurant in 1881. Beyond the balcony you can see the riverbanks and people boating on the River Seine. Although named Two Sisters, the models were not sisters at all!  In fact, it was the French impressionism art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, who named this painting. Durand-Ruel decided to call it “Two Sisters” after purchasing it from Renoir in July 1881. Today this famous impressionist painting is hanging on the walls of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Two Sisters - Famous Renoir Painting
Famous Impressionist Painting – Two Sisters by Renoir [Public Domain]

Dance at Bougival, 1883

Renoir painted this famous painting at Bougival, once a riverside village located 17 kms west of Paris . In the 19th century, Parisians came to Bougival to socialize with friends and dance the night away.

In this painting, Renoir captures a man and woman dancing in the forefront & socializing drinkers in the background. The models for this painting were Renoir’s friends, Paul Lhote an artist himself and Suzanne Valadon.

Suzanne Valadon was a post-impressionism artist in her own right. She was also a sought out model for many of the famous painters in the 19th century. There are juicy rumors & speculation that she and Renoir were lovers and that her illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo was in fact Renoir’s. Interestingly, Utrillo became a famous artist as well. This should not be surprising as he definitely inherited artistic genes from both sides!

The art dealer mogul, Paul Durand-Ruel, commissioned this painting in 1883.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston bought this painting for $150,000 in 1937 during the Great Depression. This huge amount is equivalent to around 2.5 million dollars in today’s currency. The museum considers this artwork to be one of their most famous and valuable impressionist paintings.

Dance at Bougival - One of Pierre Auguste Renoir most famous impressionist paintings
Dance at Bougival – A Famous Impressionist Painting by Renoir [Public Domain]

Two Young Girls at the Piano, 1892

In 1891 Renoir received a commission from the French Government to create a painting for the Musée de Luxembourg. For this project, Renoir painted Two Young Girls at the Piano. To get the painting 100% perfect, Renoir painted five different versions. One version of this painting is hanging on the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the other in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Two Young Girls at the Piano - The Version hanging at the Musee D'Orsay
Two Young Girls at the Piano – The Version hanging at the Musee D’Orsay
Two Young Girls at the Piano - A Famous Impressionist Painting by Renoir
Two Young Girls at the Piano at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir [Public Domain]

Gabrielle Renard & Infant Son Jean (1895-96)

In addition to capturing the good life of 19th century France, Renoir also painted many canvases depicting his own family (his wife and three sons) in domestic settings. Through this painting and others, we get a glimpse into Renoir’s intimate family life. This painting depicts the nanny, Gabrielle, (who was also his wife’s cousin), playing with his son, the future film director Jean Renoir.

In 1962, Jean Renoir published a biography called: Renoir, My Father , in which he tells of the huge inpact his father had on his own artistic career.

This famous impressionist painting can be found in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris

Gabrielle Renard & Infant Son Jean - one of Renoir's most famous impressionist paintings
Gabrielle Renard & Infant Son Jean- A Famous Impressionist Painting by Renoir
[Public Domain]

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