Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Style: Impressionism

Lived: February 25, 1841 - December 3, 1919 (19th - 20th century)

Nationality: France

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (February 25, 1841 - December 3, 1919) was a preeminent French painter.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, the child of a working class family. As a boy, he worked in a porcelain factory where his interest in painting led to him painting designs on china. In 1862 he studied art in Paris, where he met Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille and Claude Monet.

His initial paintings were influenced by the artistry of Eugène Delacroix and his close friend Monet who helped Renoir found the Impressionism movement. He would go on to become one of the greatest painters of his time. Today his paintings are probably the most popular, well-known, and frequently reproduced images in the history of art.

Although Renoir had his first exhibit of paintings in 1864 he did not gain any real recognition for another ten years due to the turmoil in Paris as a result of the Franco-Prussian War. During the Paris Commune in 1871, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was arrested as a government spy. His life was saved when he was recognized by one of the Commune leaders, whom Renoir had himself protected on another occasion. In the mid 1870s, the first exhibition was held for the new impressionist painters and Renoir gained his first great acclaim.

While living and working in Montmartre, he would have an affair with one of his models, Suzanne Valadon who would become one of the leading female artists of the day. He would later marry Aline Victorine Charigot, with whom he would have three sons, one of which, Jean Renoir, would become an important filmmaker. After marriage, his work changed when he became very much family oriented and was equally as interested in painting individual or family portraits as he was in landscapes.

One of the most famous impressionist works by any painter, is his 1876 Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette (Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette), an open-air scene, jammed with people, of a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre not far from where he had been living. (See photo below.)

In 1881 he traveled to Algeria, a country he associated with Eugène Delacroix, then to Madrid, Spain to see the work of Diego Velazquez and then to Italy to see Titian's masterpieces in Florence and the paintings of Raphael in Rome. On January 15, 1882 Renoir met composer Richard Wagner at his home in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir painted Wagner's portait in just 35 minutes.

A proflific artist, over a 60 year period, Pierre-Auguste Renoir made several thousand paintings, continuing to paint even during the last 20 years of his life when he was severely hampered by arthritis and wheelchair-bound. In 1907, he moved to the warmer climate of "Les Collettes," a farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer not far from the Mediterranean coast. There, he continued to paint by using a brush strapped to his arm. He even created sculptures, dictating to an assistant who worked the clay.

In 1919, Renoir had the extraordinary experience of visiting the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with the old masters.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, on December 3, 1919.

Two of Renoir's paintings have sold for more than US$70 million.

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