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Renoir, The Well-Known Impressionist Painter

Updated on March 5, 2016

Renoir - A Self Portrait


Who Was Renoir?

Pierre-August Renoir was a French artist born in February 1841 in Limoges, France. He worked mostly in an impressionist style although he did change this later. Renoir came from a modest background; his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. They moved to Paris and lived near the Louvre, a renowned art museum.

At the age of 13 he became an apprentice painter in a porcelain factory, doing decorative illustrations such as flowers on porcelain plates. Renoir retained much of this decorative style in his works over his lifetime - in addition he took free drawing lessons at a local art school.

In 1862 he started studying art in Paris at the Ecole des beaux-Arts, but he also studied under Charles Gleyre in his studio. Here he met three artists, namely Frederic Bazille, Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. Through Monet he came to know Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro.

As a person, Renoir was both quiet and shy; as a child he was close to his mother - when studying art he was not recognized as being a brilliant student but this did not deter him from painting. He attended a Catholic school and sang in the church choir of St. Eustache.

The Skiff (La Yole)


As An Artist

As an artist Renoir struggled to make a living and his works were initially rejected. His medium was oil paints - there is enchanting beauty in his paintings; he painted children, people, flowers, nature and women, including nudes. His style was an impressionist one but later on in life his work became more formal and he painted pastoral and everyday scenes. Renoir's works were infused with much colour and light, reflecting life around him.

From 1864 he exhibited paintings at the Paris Salon, however his works were only recognized ten years later. One painting exhibited there was "La Esmarelda", it was of a woman, inspired by the novel Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo. There is also a musical by the same name, based on Hugo's novel. Renoir spent some time painting with another famous artist, Monet on the banks of the Seine river where he developed his impressionist style. He looked for commission work doing portraits, receiving support from people he knew such as friends and mentors.

In 1870 he had to do compulsory army service and was unable to paint at that time - he became ill and did not take part in any military action. Renoir and fellow impressionist artists, Monet, Pissarro, Degas and Cezanne displayed their paintings at the first impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874. Six of his paintings were hung there but the group was unfortunately not successful. The impressionists work was not recognized by the art world at first, it took time for them to be accepted.

The publisher George's Charpentier and his wife Marguerite however, were interested in Renoir's works; he socialized with their associates where he met authors and obtained commissions from people in their circle. It had taken him some time but he was starting to achieve something with his art, his persistence was starting to pay off.

Renoirs "Moulin De Galette"


His Travels & Life

The painting opposite is one of Renoir's more famous ones, although many of his works are examples of his fine craftsmanship.

In 1881 he traveled to Algeria then Italy, where he met the composer Wagner whom he painted - he did portraits and paintings of many of the people he knew during his lifetime.

In 1883 Renoir spent the summer in Guernsey, a channel island in the English Channel where he did 15 paintings. While in Montmarte he employed a model, Sazanne Valadon whom he painted; she herself became an accomplished artist. Pierre Renoir's recognition grew as he continued to produce great works of art.

In 1890 he married his long-time girlfriend Aline Victorine Charigot - they had 3 sons together, she bore his first son Pierre before they were married. Pierre became an actor on the stage and in film, Jean a filmmaker and Claude a ceramic artist - like their father they were all involved in the arts world.

Misfortune struck in 1892 when Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis which would effect his ability to paint somewhat. In 1907 they moved to a warmer climate, to a farm "Les Collettes" at Cagnes-sur-Mer in France, near the Mediterranean sea.

Renoir - Flowers In A Vase


Old Age

Renoir continued to paint into old age and also started doing sculptures with the help of a young artist, Richard Guino who did ceramic work - Renoir needed assistance because of his arthritic hands. In 1912 he had a stroke and had to be in a wheelchair but carried on painting and sculpting. He also developed a condition called ankylosis in his right shoulder which made work difficult.

In 1919 he was satisfied to view his paintings along with those of the old masters, in the Louvre - the museum bought one of his works. Pierre-August Renoir died in December 1919 in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, in France, his wife had already passed away in 1915. He completed more than 200 works of art in his lifetime, achieving fame and recognition.


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© 2014 David Edward Lynch


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    • DaveOnline profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks for your comments DDE, I like their work yes.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great artists aren't they? You have chosen beautiful photos and announced a very interesting hub.

    • DaveOnline profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks for your comment Janis, I feel I need to expand on this hub, hope to do so when the time available.

    • WriterJanis profile image

      Janis 3 years ago from California

      What an honor it must have felt like for him when he got to see his work in the Louvre.

    • DaveOnline profile image

      David Edward Lynch 3 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      Thanks for your comments Mel, agreed the artists on the list were all brilliant.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Who can pick a favorite? I love all of those artists on the list. Thank you for this summary of the life of this brilliant and gifted man.