Pierre August Renoir Biography
French painter originally associated with the impressionist movement. Renoir's early works were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women (e.g. , Bathers, 1884-87).
In 1854 Renoir began work as a painter in a porcelain factory in Paris, gaining experience with the light, fresh colors that were to distinguish his Impressionist work and also learning the importance of good craftsmanship. His predilection towards light-hearted themes was also influenced by the great Rococco masters, whose works he studied in the Louvre.
His relationship with Monet was particularly close at this time, and their oil paintings of the beauty spot called La Grenouill�re done in 1869 are regarded as the classic early statements of the Impressionist style. Like Monet, Renoir endured much hardship early in his career, but he began to achieve success as a portraitist in the late 1870s.
By this time Renoir had 'travelled as far as Impressionism could take me', and a visit to Italy in 1881-82 inspired him to seek a greater sense of solidarity in his work. The change in attitude 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.
In the mid 1880s, Renoir developed a softer and more supple kind of handling. At the same time he turned from contemporary themes to more timeless subjects, particularly nudes, but also pictures of young girls in unspecific settings. As Renoir's style became grander and simpler he also took up mythological subjects (The Judgement of Paris) and the female type he preferred became more mature and ample.
In the 1890s Renoir began to suffer from rheumatism, and from 1903 (by which time Renoir was world-famous) he lived in the warmth of the south of France. The rheumatism eventually crippled him but he continued to paint until the end of his life, and in his last years he also took up sculpture.
Renoir is perhaps the best-loved of all the Impressionists, for his subjects---pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenes, above all lovely women---have instant appeal, and he communicated the joy he took in them with great directness. `Why shouldn't art be pretty?', he said, `There are enough unpleasant things in the world.' Renoir was one of the great worshippers of the female form, and he said `I never think I have finished a nude until I think I could pinch it.'
Best known oil paintings: Luncheon of the Boating Party, Moulin de la Galette
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