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Pierre Auguste Renoir


1841 - 1919


Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in 1841, in Limoges, France. His father Leonard was a tailor, his mother a seamstress. In 1854 he was an apprentice to the Levy Brothers and began work as a porcelain painter in their factory in Paris. Renoir began gaining experience with the light, fresh colors, which would soon distinguish his Impressionist work. Just as important, he also learned the importance of good craftsmanship. The masters, whose works he studied in the Louvre, also influenced his partiality towards lighthearted themes.

In 1862, Renoir entered the studio of Gleyre and there formed a lasting friendship with Monet, Sisley and Bazille. He painted with them in the Barbizon 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. The paintings they created in 1869 of the beautiful spot called La Grenouillere are regarded as the classic early statements of the Impressionist style. An example by Renoir is now in the National Museum, Stockholm.

Like Monet, Renoir endured much hardship early in his career, but he began to achieve success as a portraitist in the late 1870’s. He was freed from financial worries in 1881 after the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel began buying his work regularly. By this time Renoir had “traveled as far as Impressionism could take me”. He visited Italy in 1881 and remained there until 1882. As a result, Renoir was inspired to seek a greater sense of solidarity in his work.

In the 1890’s Renoir began to suffer from rheumatism. In 1903, by which time he had become world famous, he lived in the warmth of the south of France. The rheumatism eventually crippled him by 1912, leaving him confined to a wheel chair. Renoir, however, continued to paint until the end of his life. He also took up sculpture in his last years. He directed his assistants, including Richard Guino who was a pupil of Maillol, to act as his hands.