Pierre Auguste Renoir Biography

Limoges (France), 1841 - Cagnes (France), 1919

Master French Painter and Sculptor Auguste Renoir was one of the founding members of the Impressionist Movement. His ability to capture the immediacy of movement and light established him as one of the greatest painters of his time.

He was born in Limoges, France, and moved to Paris shortly there after. From an early age, he showed a precocious talent for drawing and at 13 became an apprentice in a porcelain factory where he painted plates. During this time he made frequent trips to the Louvre, where he became a great admirer of the classic French painters.

During the 1860's, a revolution emerged in French painting when a number of young painters began to explore new alternatives to traditional methods. It was at this time that the porcelain factory closed and Renoir decided to seriously study art. He formed a close alliance with Claude Monet and together they embarked on innovative new methods of painting.

The 1860's were difficult years for Renoir, where he often found himself unable to pay for art supplies and the Salon continually rejected his works. In the year 1869, Renoir and Monet worked together at La Grenouillere, a bathing spot on the Seine. It was here that the two artists made the important discovery that shadows where not black and brown, but rather reflected the colors of their surroundings. The two artists became obsessed with painting in nature, capturing the intricacies of light and water.

In 1874, Renoir participated in the first Impressionist exhibition, which included works by Monet, Degas and Pissarro. Of all the Impressionists, he was the one who took what was essentially a landscape style of painting and applied it to figurative subjects. The exhibition was subjected to wide ridicule, yet it also attracted the attention of important patrons. These relationships were documented in a series of striking portraits rendered in this period.

It was in this decade that Renoir produced some of his most celebrated works. His pieces exuded a fluidity and humanity that was largely lacking from his predecessors, and he brought to life the vibrant atmosphere of modern day France.

But by the 1880's, Renoir became increasingly disenchanted with the Impressionist style, due largely to his dissatisfaction in the direction of his own works. In 1881 he travelled to Italy searching for fresh inspiration. This ushered in a new period of works firmly entrenched in established traditions, producing pieces that are often referred to as dry and tight. They stand in contradiction to the warm sensuality that came so naturally in his earlier works.

In the 1890's Renoir's style evolved once again and he produced some of his most extraordinary work. The pieces are imbued with dazzling light and color and consist of sensual nudes, radiant children and lush summer landscapes. They are in many ways a continuation on the work he created two decades prior.

With the turn of the century, Renoir's health declined precipitously. Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, he at times had to bind his brushes to his wrists in order to paint. His death in 1919 was proceeded by the monumental achievement of living to see his work, Madame Georges Charpentier, hanging in the Louvre.

SELECTED MUSEUMS AND COLLECTIONS - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York - Guggenheim Museum, New York - Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles - The Louvre, Paris - Museum of Modern Art, New York - Museum D'Orsay, Paris - Minneapolis Institute of Arts - Museum of Fine Arts, Houston - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - National Gallery of Art, Washington DC - National Gallery, London - National Gallery of Canada - The Phillips Collection, Washington DC - Art Institute of Chicago - Frick Collection, New York - Tate Gallery, London - Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid