Pierre-Auguste Renoir is one of the most well-known painters associated with the birth of the Impressionism period, alongside other Paris-based painters like Eduard Manet, Claude Monet, Théodore Rousseau, and Jean-François Millet. You may know him well for his bold work on watercolor, oil paintings, and drawings celebrating the female figure, and his depictions of the modern and idyllic, Parisian life.
Most of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's artworks have a cheery and upbeat nature, even when it was the opposite of what his life was at times. His positive outlook on art has preceded his reputation, and today, we shine a spotlight on this artist and his life, artwork, and his stray from impressionism to early modernism.
From Porcelain to Paintings: His Early Life as an Artist
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on February 25, 1841, in Limoges, France, to a family of artisans. He was the sixth among seven children. His childhood was marked by poverty and hardship. His father, Léonard Renoir, was a tailor, and his mother, Marguerite Merlet, was a seamstress. The family lived in a small apartment and struggled to make ends meet. Despite the difficult financial situation, Renoir's parents supported their son's artistic talents and encouraged him to pursue his passion.
Even as a young child, Pierre-Auguste Renoir showed creative potential, so much so that his parents decided to make him work at a porcelain factory. There, he became an apprentice who worked on decorating plates with bouquets.
Eventually, news spread of his talent, and he began working on fans and cloth panels, making tapestries for missionaries. After seven years, he decided to pursue art more adamantly and moved to Paris in 1862 to take evening classes at the École des Beaux-Arts. There, he studied drawing and anatomy. It was also at this school that he met Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, and Frédéric Bazille, with whom he found friendship.
The bond between the four students stemmed from their disdain and rejection of being tied down by tradition in art. As their bond grew, so did their dreams of going against the restraints of conventional art. Their "rebellious" acts started by painting outside in plain air, as opposed to the usual studio painting of that time.
Interestingly enough, their break away from tradition led them to inadvertently jumpstart Impressionism, which involved the style of portraying light and shadow in natural ways, using broken brush strokes. Because they wanted to paint directly in nature, they had to capture the essence of fleeting light through sporadic strokes. No one did this technique more eloquently than Renoir, who had a keen eye and hand for it.
Of course, their methods and outputs, considered scandalous and unorthodox at the time compared to traditional techniques, caused Renoir's and others' work to receive criticism and backlash. However, because of Renoir's beautiful work on portraits, his works became more prominent. Because of this, he was able to score commissions from the Parisian elite, who hired him to paint portraits of primarily women and children.
As Renoir started delving deeper into paintings that involved more human elements than landscapes, he began to delve deeper into a more High Renaissance style, influenced by artists like Raphael and Peter Paul Rubens. He figured that Impressionism could not accurately portray the depth and composition of human subjects, like the satin effects of sfumato on the skin, for example.
It was only until Renoir's trip to Italy in 1881 that he fully started to drop Impressionism and take up a more classicist approach to his art. It was during this era that he focused more on forms, contours, and lines. However, he still retained his colorist perspective from Impressionism, with most of his subjects bearing bright colors, giving them a saccharine effect.
Around the 1890s, Renoir married Aline Charigot, a model that posed for his paintings. He grew fond of her in between painting sessions, which eventually blossomed into a beautiful relationship. They had three sons, all of whom became affiliated with filmmaking and acting.
During the late years of his life, Renoir was diagnosed with rheumatism until he eventually had struggles moving his hands and feet. Still, he didn't stop painting and instead adapted to his ailment. Up until the end of his life, he created art and was luckily able to see some of his paintings on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Pierre-Auguste Renoir died on December 3, 1919.
Paint Beyond the Pain: Renoir’s Style and Techniques
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was an Impressionist painter, and his art style is characterized by a focus on capturing fleeting moments and the effects of light on the natural world.
Renoir's paintings often feature scenes from everyday life, such as portraits of friends and family, landscapes, and scenes from the parks and gardens of Paris. He was particularly interested in capturing the beauty of the female form and painted many portraits of women, often featuring them in relaxed and informal poses.
Renoir's art style was heavily influenced by the work of the Old Masters, such as Rubens and Titian, and he often incorporated classical elements into his compositions. However, he approached these elements in a more relaxed and spontaneous way, breaking away from the strict formality of traditional academic painting.
Overall, Renoir's art style is known for its luminosity, ability to convey a sense of movement and lightness, and for its celebration of life's simple pleasures.
How Art Conveyed His Passion: Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Works
He created many famous paintings throughout his career, but some of the more famous Pierre-Auguste Renoir paintings are: "Luncheon of the Boating Party" (which even got featured in the 2015 movie Amelie), "Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette," "The Umbrellas," and "Portrait of Mademoiselle Romaine Lancry."
Paint With Your Emotions and Make Beautiful Artwork Today!
All in all, Pierre Auguste Renoir was an incredible artist, and his works of art will live on for generations to come. His techniques, which involved combining dabs of color and vibrant hues to create a captivating snapshot of life, captured the imagination of art enthusiasts all over the world. From the Luncheon of the Boating Party to Bal du moulin de la Galette, his masterpieces are legendary in their own right.
We hope you enjoyed reading through this biography on Renoir’s life and work! Don't forget to check out our first post on the Meet The Artist Behind The Art blog to learn more about some incredible artists from different fields and get inspired by their amazing works!