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Pierre-Auguste Renoir

(French, 1841-1919)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France in 1841. As the son of a working class family, he worked in a porcelain factory where he was chosen to paint designs on china. Even during those early years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters.

In 1862 Renoir began studying art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Paris under Charles Gleyre. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille, and Claude Monet. In the late 1860s, through the practice of painting light and water in the open air, he and Claude Monet discovered that the colour of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected colour of the objects surrounding them. Together with their contemporaries, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille , Monet and Renoir pioneered the Impressionist style, painting snap shot scenes of real life, painted in open air with hasty, textured brush strokes that sparkled with colour and light.

As the technique became increasingly popular with their contemporaries, the impressionist's held their first exhibition in 1874, which featured 6 of Renoir's works. By the mid-1880s, Renoir broke with the impressionist movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women. This change largely came about after he travelled to look at the works of the artists whom he greatly admired. In 1881 he travelled to Algeria, a country he associated with Eugène Delacroix, and then to Madrid to see the work of Diego Velázquez. He then went on to Italy to look at the work of Titian, Raphael and other Renaissance masters in Florence and Rome.

After his marriage in 1890 Renoir changed direction again, and returned to the use of thinly brushed colour which dissolved outlines as in his earlier work. From this period onwards he concentrated on monumental nudes and domestic scenes, particularly of his is wife and family.

Around 1892, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. Despite this he continued to paint during the last twenty years of his life, even when arthritis severely limited his movement. In the advanced stages of his arthritis, he painted by having a brush strapped to his paralyzed fingers. In 1919, Renoir visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with the old masters, he died in the same year.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir