(b. Feb. 25, 1841, Limoges, France d. Dec. 3, 1919, Cagnes)
French painter originally associated with the
movement. His early works were typically Impressionist
snapshots of real life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the
mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more
disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings,
particularly of women (e.g. ,
painter, born at Limoges. In 1854 he began work as a painter in a
porcelain factory in Paris, gaining experience with the light,
fresh colors that were to distinguish his Impressionist work
and also learning the importance of good craftsmanship.
His predilection towards light-hearted themes was also influenced
by the great
masters, whose works he studied in the Louvre.
In 1862 he entered the studio of
Gleyre and there formed a lasting friendship with
He painted with them in the
district and became a leading member of the group of Impressionists
who met at the Café Guerbois. His relationship with Monet was
particularly close at this time, and their paintings of the beauty
spot called La Grenouillère done in 1869 (an example by Renoir is in
the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) are regarded as the classic early
statements of the Impressionist style. Like Monet, Renoir endured
much hardship early in his career, but he began to achieve success
as a portraitist in the late 1870s and was freed from financial
worries after the dealer
Paul Durand-Ruel began buying his work regularly in 1881.
By this time Renoir had 'travelled as far as Impressionism could
take me', and a visit to Italy in 1881-82 inspired him to seek a
greater sense of solidarity in his work. The change in attitude
is seen in
which was evidently begun before the visit to Italy and finished
afterwards; the two little girls on the right are painted with the
feathery brush-strokes characteristic of his Impressionist manner,
but the figures on the left are done in a crisper and drier style,
with duller coloring. After a period of experimentation with what
he called his manière aigre (harsh or sour manner) in the mid 1880s,
he developed a softer and more supple kind of handling.
At the same time he turned from contemporary themes to more timeless
subjects, particularly nudes, but also pictures of young girls in
unspecific settings. As his style became grander and simpler he also
took up mythological subjects
(The Judgement of Paris; Hiroshima Museum of Art; 1913-14),
and the female type he preferred became more mature and ample.
In the 1890s Renoir began to suffer from rheumatism, and from 1903
(by which time he was world-famous) he lived in the warmth of the south
of France. The rheumatism eventually crippled him (by 1912 he was
confined to a wheelchair), but he continued to paint until the end
of his life, and in his last years he also took up sculpture,
directing assistants (usually Richard Guino, a pupil of
to act as his hands
(Venus Victorious; Tate, London; 1914).
Renoir is perhaps the best-loved of all the Impressionists, for his
subjects -pretty children, flowers, beautiful scenes, above all
lovely women -have instant appeal, and he communicated the joy he took
in them with great directness.
Why shouldn't art be pretty?', he said, There are enough unpleasant
things in the world.
He was one of the great worshippers of the female form, and he said
I never think I have finished a nude until I think I could pinch it.
One of his sons was the celebrated film director Jean Renoir
(1894-1979), who wrote a lively and touching biography
(Renoir, My Father) in 1962.