Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) was a French Impressionist and a celebrator of beauty and subtle feminine sensuality. He came from a working class background and worked in a porcelain factory where his talent was discovered and he was chosen to paint the patterns on the china.
He went to study in Paris in 1862 where he met Sisley, Bazille and Monet and started to exhibit. But it took him another 10+ years before he gained recognition and was able to pay for his own paint. It happened when he participated with six of his paintings in the first ever Impressionist exhibition in 1874.
In the 1880s Renoir traveled a lot to get familiar with the work of some of his idols and the places they worked at. He went to Algeria, Spain, Italy and the Channel Island of Guernsey. In Algeria he contracted pneumonia which permanently damaged his respiratory system.
Around 1892 Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis, which progressively limited his movements and eventually left him wheelchair bound. Yet, even if he required help to pick up a brush and had to be clever about how he could paint large canvases, he never ceased painting and never lost his skills.
Shortly before he died he visited the Louvre as he had done in his early years in Paris. But this time he went to see his paintings hang next to that of the masters he studied and admired in his youth.
Renoir’s art is characterized by its focus on people in intimate and candid compositions (mostly female nudes) which he painted in vibrant light and with saturated colors. As typical in Impressionism his brushwork is fast and freely applied, the colors placed next to each other so that figures seem to fuse with each other and the background. His work has a snapshot like quality.
He had a period – after he saw the works of Raphael and other Renaissance masters – in which he broke with Impressionism and created more disciplined, formal portraits with more classical lines and emphasized outlines. Yet, returned to France he returned to dissolved outlines through the use of thinly brushed colors side by side, the way he had applied the paint already in his early work.
His warm and sensual paintings are some of the most well-known and reproduced works in art history. He was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style.