Pierre-Auguste Renoir created some of the most enchanting paintings in Impressionist art. Trained as a porcelain painter in a small Paris factory, he made the transition from craftsman to artist at age 19. Throughout his long career and despite many changes in style, his paintings always remained cheerful. They evoke a carefree dream world, full of light and color, where beautiful women dance with their lovers.
After struggling for more than 15 years (his Impressionist paintings were derided by critics), Renoir was making a name for himself as a society portraitist in his late 40s. It was during this time that he got married and led a happy family life. He was later crippled by rheumatism and moved south to the Riviera, where he painted every day during his final years until his death aged 78.
Pierre-Auguste Renoirwas born on February 25, 1841 in Limoges, in central France, the fourth of his parents' five children. His father, Leonard, was a tailor; his mother Marguerite, a seamstress. When Renoir was four years old, the family moved to Paris, so he grew up in the capital, first in a dilapidated apartment in the courtyard of the Louvre, and then in a royal palace.
Renoir's home was crowded and hardworking, but the boy had a happy childhood, marked by the discovery that he had a beautiful voice. Composer Gounod suggested giving him a full musical education with a place in the Paris Opera Chorus. But even at the age of 13, Renoir somehow felt that he was not cut out for this. Instead, he accepted another offer: he became a decorative painter at a small porcelain factory.
Auguste proved so adept at this job that he was nicknamed Mr. Rubens and soon received the task of painting the profiles of Marie Antoinette on the fine white cups. He earned a lot of money from his craft for five years before hand painting was rendered obsolete by the invention of a mechanical stamping process. It was his first real taste of the "machine" and it put him off mass production and standardization for life.
While at the factory, Renoir visited the Louvre's art galleries during his lunch hour. His great love was for the exquisite imagery of eighteenth-century court revelry.Watteau,boucherYFragonard, and Delacroix's dramatic, colorful canvasses. But, as he told his son Jean, he was most inspired by a large 16th-century sculpture, the Fountain of the Innocents. And after a year of painting shutters and a series of cafe murals, he decided to become an artist.
In 1862, at the age of 21, Renoir became a student at the studio of Charles Gleyre, a well-known private art school in Paris. Although academic and traditional in nature, it gave him an excellent education with plenty of time to go to the Louvre and study the Old Masters. But Gleyre also emphasized the importance of drawing outdoors and encouraged him to visit the Forest of Fontainebleau. This characteristic of the teaching of Gleyre and his remarkable group of young art students had a profound impact on Renoir's career.
Among the students wereClaude Monet,alfredo sisleyand Frederic Bazille, by whom. I met renoirEdgar DegasYEdward Manet, as well as many prominent writers and critics. Together they gradually formed a close-knit group that regularly met in Parisian cafes to discuss their theories, and thus the ideas of Impressionism were born.
Working closely with Monet in the Forest of Fontainebleau (a two-day trek from Paris), Renoir gradually developed his own style. However, their collaboration reached its climax in the summer of 1869, when the two worked together at the popular riverside restaurant La Grenouillere, producing the canvases that are now considered the first impressionist paintings.
Those were days of financial difficulties for both of them. Renoir had at least some help from his family and took bread and scraps from his table to Monet. But no one had money to spend on paint or canvas. It was only Bazille's money, which had a small private income, that kept her going.
renoir on chivalry
In 1870 this phase of intense creativity ended abruptly with the Franco-Prussian War. Renoir was recruited and trained horses for the cavalry in the Pyrenees, away from the fighting. He returned to Paris in the midst of the bitter Commune battle of 1871, but was fortunate to have influential friends on both sides who allowed him to move in and out of the city. Renoir continued to paint and the group slowly reformed, albeit without Bazille, who had been killed in the war. Through Monet, Renoir met Paul Durand-Ruel, the first art dealer to support the Impressionists, who agreed to accept works from him. He soon sold enough to move into a large studio on rue St Georges. After a series of attic studies over the years, he now, with a laugh, declared that he had "arrived".
This studio, where he lived for over ten years, became an important meeting point for the Impressionist group and their collaborators. Renoir's younger brother Edmond, who became a noted writer and art critic, lived on the ground floor, making the studio an almost too large gathering place. At times, Renoir was forced to seek out small studios to find the peace of mind he needed to work. Slender, bearded and immensely charming, in an avant-garde and unpretentious way, Renoir aroused exceptional affection among his friends. Though non-demonstrative, hating any public display of emotion, he demonstrated intense loyalty and love with acts of quiet generosity. One of his longtime friends, the artistPaul Cézanne, it was the opposite. Where Cézanne distrusted people, Renoir did not waste his energy worrying about being exploited. "People love to be nice," he said, "but you have to give them a chance."
Even with the new studio, Renoir's financial problems were far from over. In the 1870s, Renoir's work, like that of other Impressionist painters, was ignored or ridiculed by academic critics: one of his nudes was once compared to a "mass of decaying flesh". But little by little, a small and dedicated group of enthusiasts emerged.
One of them, Victor Chocquet, became a particular admirer and amassed a significant collection of Renoir's work. This gave the painter enormous self-confidence during a difficult period, but it was not enough by itself to sustain him. He still depended on portrait commissions won through the Salon until enlightened middle-class families such as the Charpentiers and the Berards became his patrons, allowing him to continue the more experimental Parisian scenes.
All these years, Renoir had remained single. There were romances, probably including one with Lise Trehot, who he painted so often in the 1860s, but Renoir always seems to have seen the idea of marriage and children as a distraction from his main focus in life: painting.
But in his early 40s he met Aline Charigot, a pretty girl some 20 years his junior who modeled for him from time to time. Their acquaintance developed in the summer of 1881, while he was working on the great masterpiece of his Impressionist period, The Rowers' Luncheon, for which she was one of the models. He taught her to swim and they danced and sailed together. Gentle Aline had almond-shaped eyes and "walked through the grass without hurting her", but despite their love for each other, their relationship would not be easy.
Renoir was in crisis in his painting. Despite Aline's suggestion that they leave and stay in their small hometown in Burgundy, he was reluctant to leave Paris and didn't want children either. Aline dropped the subject. Renoir began to travel extensively: first to Normandy, then to Algeria, a country he associated with Delacroix, then to Spain and Italy to see the works of the Old Masters.Velazquezin Madrid,Titianin Venice andRafaelin Rome - and the murals in Pompeii.
a wife and children
But Renoir did not forget Aline and returned to Paris to be with her. It should be a relationship of harmony and happiness. It brought him peace of mind, as well as children to paint and, as he put it, "time to think." He created an atmosphere of activity around me that met my needs and concerns.'
Returning to his old studio on Rue St. Georges, Renoir processed the visual impressions of his travels into a new way of painting. The so-called "hard" style he initially developed caused his dealer more difficulties, and it was only the great enthusiasm of the Americans for his work from 1885 onwards that enabled Renoir to adequately support Aline and their infant son. In 1890 the couple got married. Although he was not yet rich, he managed to move his family to a bigger house in Montmartre and help Aline. Gabrielle Renard, Aline's distant cousin, arrived in 1894. At just 15, she had never left the village of Essones, in Burgundy, where she and Aline were born. The dark-haired pink girl soon became part of the family, helping to raise their youngest children, Jean and Claude, and frequently posing as a model.
Renoir enjoyed family life, worked hard and now sold well, meeting friends every Saturday night when Aline held public tours and visiting his mother on Sundays. But misfortune was not long in coming in the form of a serious illness. In 1897 he broke his arm when he fell off his bicycle and this provoked his first attack of muscular rheumatism which gradually paralyzed him and would not leave him free of pain for the rest of his life. Through tremendous willpower, aided by the devotion of Aline, Gabrielle and their friends, he somehow continued to paint.
To ease the pain, Renoir spent more and more time in the heat of southern France. In 1907 he built a beautiful house in Cagnes on the Côte d'Azur. With its numerous olive and orange trees and its view of the Mediterranean, "Les Collettes" became his pictorial basis. The bright light and relaxed atmosphere helped soothe sore muscles and unleash creativity in a colorful, classic style.
However, the beauty of the place did not cure rheumatism. In 1908, Renoir could only walk with canes. In 1912, his arms and legs became crippled and he was confined to a wheelchair. Despite this, he continued to paint almost non-stop, stopping only briefly on Aline's death in 1915.
In his later years, Renoir devoted himself to sculpture, with two young sculptors in his hands, his own too crippled to use. The fact that these sculptures are unmistakably Renoir's is testament to his extraordinary ability to communicate.
Renoir painted to the end, working in a special glass atelier in his garden. He was taken there every day in his litter, always with his white cap out in the open, and placed in his wheelchair. Gabrielle slipped the brush between her gnarled fingers. One day, after Renoir had painted some anemones brought to him by a maid, he asked a friend to pick up his brush and said, "I think I'm beginning to understand something of this." He died that same night, December 3rd. , 1919.
paint for pleasure
For Renoir, painting was an expression of his joy in life. She has always enjoyed taking pictures of her friends and lovers and has never been shy about taking beautiful photos.
"Why shouldn't art be beautiful?" Renoir once asked. There are enough nasty things in the world already. This simple statement sums up his attitude towards life and painting: he had an enormous capacity for pleasure and his art was an expression of his joy in life. Renoir only worked when he was happy, and he consciously chose subjects that he found attractive: lush landscapes, fruit and flowers, people enjoying themselves, children playing, and, most importantly, beautiful women.
Nothing gave him more pleasure than painting women, and although our concept of fashionable beauty has changed significantly since Renoir's time, the young women we see in his paintings still recall a time when life in Paris was fun. Raised in the inner city as the son of a tailor, his models are all working girls-seamstresses, milliners, actresses-who, he once said, had the precious gift of living in the moment.
As natural as it may seem, Renoir's choice of theme was radical and daring when, at the age of 21, he decided to enroll as an art student in Charles Gleyre's studio. The Parisian art world was still dominated by the official salon, which preferred to exhibit works on historical and literary themes, painted in a realistic style. Only in recent years younger artists in particularGustavo Courbet, returned to everyday themes that were an expression of a rapidly changing France. Renoir quickly found that corner life interested him more than the usual studio practice of copying plaster casts of ancient sculptures. His tutor could not persuade him that the big toe of a Roman consul should be more majestic than that of a local miner. One day, upset with his student, Gleyre said, "No doubt you took up painting just for fun. And Renoir replied, "Of course. If I didn't have fun, I wouldn't do it.
the impressionist years
While studying in Gleyre's studio, Renoir befriended a group of classmates who were dominated by the dynamic personality of Claude Monet and later became famous as the Impressionists. Together they undertook painting trips to the forest of Fontainebleau, 40 miles south of Paris, where they trained in the open air. Renoir, greatly impressed by Courbet, used muted browns and blacks in his work. But one day the artist Narcisse Diaz found him in the woods, and as he was looking at Renoir's canvas, she asked Renoir, "Why the hell do you paint in such dark colors?"
This encouraged Renoir to use the lighter colors of the rainbow, which he instinctively preferred and had learned to handle in his early years as a porcelain painter.
In the late 1860s, Monet and Renoir worked together, both drawn to brilliant scenes of rivers and views of bustling Paris. Some of his paintings from this period depict almost identical scenes, but Renoir's style is softer and more delicate than Monet's. Working outdoors where light cannot be controlled, such as in a studio, they had to paint quickly to capture nature's colors before they changed, for example when clouds covered the sun. So they didn't try to blend their brushstrokes in the traditional way. Instead, they juxtaposed different colors in a way that would soon be commonly known as impressionistic.
Renoir enjoyed painting landscapes, but he became increasingly interested in people. Throughout his life he included his friends and loved ones in his paintings; as a poor artist, they were initially the only models available to him. Some of his faces are unmistakably 'Renoir', with almond-shaped eyes and luscious hair, but what he particularly sought in a model was 'an air of composure and good skin that 'captures the light'. Some of Renoir's most successful early works are portraits, and his graceful, gentle style was particularly suited to painting children.
During his Impressionist years, Renoir developed a fascination with the effect of light filtering through foliage and falling like shadows dappled onto the ground and human forms. In his painting Le Moulin de la Galette, a large and complex composition, Renoir used the light coming in through trees to blend his figures into their surroundings. Although Renoir painted this work in his studio, he visited his venue, a Montmartre ballroom, every day, immersing himself in local life and drawing on the spot. During the 1870s, Renoir regularly exhibited with the Impressionists, but he also sent paintings to the Salon. Always more traditional than the other impressionists, he never considered himself a revolutionary. While his anarchist friend, the painterCamille PissarroHe wanted to burn down the Louvre, Renoir was a frequent visitor to the gallery.
A break from style
At first he saw no contradiction between his Impressionist insistence on painting directly from nature and his reverent study of the Old Masters. But in 1883, after a trip to Italy, Renoir could no longer reconcile them. He told a friend, "I traveled as far as Impressionism could take me and realized that I couldn't paint or draw." Renoir drastically changed his style and developed a "hard" technique, using his figures surrounded by hard, sinuous contours. In The Bathers (1884) he adopted the old masters' method of making detailed preliminary drawings. The resulting work is as flat and decorative as a mural in Pompeii.
In the 1890s these rigid contours disappeared as Renoir returned to a style more in tune with his instincts. He switched to warmer colors, particularly reds, possibly as a result of two previous trips to Algeria, where the warm, muted light caught his attention. He painted his children, his beautiful, robust nanny, Gabrielle, and an assortment of large, sensual nudes, all resplendent with bright colors.
Renoir also painted a series of floral paintings in which he experimented with the same rosy skin tones he used in his nudes. And at the end of his life, when his hands were increasingly paralyzed by rheumatism, Renoir, with the help of studio assistants, began to make small bronze sculptures. These solid, rounded figures were another expression of his never-ending delight in human form. "I never," he said, "think I've finished an act until I feel I can pinch it."