Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - 171st Birthday

Renoir Self-Portrait, 1897

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on February 25, 1841.  He was trained as a porcelain painter, but when the company for which he worked folded, he embarked on a career as a painter.  Renoir was given permission to paint at the Louvre.  (Today, you will often see people copying paintings at the Louvre, but apparently back then it was more restricted).  He also studied painting for several years before successfully entering the famed Salon (a juried show) in Paris and having paintings accepted for exhibition.

Renoir was involved in the Impressionist movement and had a long-time friendship with Claude Monet.  He associated with Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, and when Impressionism was shunned by the Salon in Paris, he participated in the separate exhibitions staged by the group.  However, he skipped the last of their exhibitions, having exhausted his exploration of Impressionism.  After that phase of his career, Renoir turned back to a more classical style in his painting.

The Skiff (La Yole), Renoir, 1875

"The Skiff" is a good example of a Renoir Impressionist painting.  Renoir said, as he moved away from the Impressionist style, "About 1883 something like a break occurred in my work.  I had reached the end of 'impressionism,' and I had come to realize that I did not know how to paint or draw."  Renoir expressed the frustration of many working artists who at various points in their career, reach for something more.  Successful artists continue to explore in their art and develop their skills throughout their lives.  The artist who thinks he knows all there is to know about drawing and painting will not progress.

Dance in the City, Renoir, 1883

Renoir did a series of "dance" paintings.  This one, Dance in the City, is my favorite of the three.  He made a living painting well-to-do women and their children.  He continued a long friendship with Monet, and met him to paint out-of-doors many times throughout the years.  Renoir also painted Monet and his family on many occasions.

Renoir's portrait of Monet hangs at the Louvre in Paris.

Even as Renoir moved toward a more classic style, the influence of his impressionist paintings can be seen in his later works.  Sometimes a well-defined figure in the foreground is offset by an impressionistic background in the paintings.  He continued to work on his style and skills throughout his career.  Renoir said "Be a good craftsman; it won't stop you from being a genius."  His words of wisdom could serve as guidance for many artists today.  You will never be hurt in your work by having good skills as a craftsman!

Luncheon of the Boating Party, Renoir, 1880-81

Aline Charigot modeled for Renoir in this painting, and eventually became his wife.  She was often his model both before and after their marriage. and they had three children together:  Pierre, Jean, and Claude.  Although Aline was much younger than Renoir, she preceded him in death by four years.

 Renoir's work is colorful and often of pleasant subject matter, such as his "Luncheon of the Boating Party" painting populated by a number of his friends..  He said "Why shouldn't art be pretty?  There are enough unpleasant things in the world."  I personally prefer art that uplifts and adds beauty to the world, so perhaps that is why I enjoy the work of this amazing painter.

Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, Renoir, 1876

 Pierre-Auguste Renoir died in 1919, but his work lives on.  Happy Birthday!  Read a more detailed biography of Pierre-Auguste Renoir and see other examples of his work here.


  1. Renior was a terrific painter. I love his sense of color and design. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Greg. I think you pointed out one thing I really love about Renoir's work...his wonderful use of color!