RENOIR, 1841 – 1919
1854, Pierre-Auguste Renoir began working as a painter in a porcelain
factory in Paris, gaining experience with the light, fresh colors
that were to distinguish his Impressionist work while learning the
importance of good craftsmanship. The great Rococo masters, whose
works he studied in the Louvre, also influenced his predilection
towards light-hearted themes.
1862 he entered the studio of Gleyre and there formed lasting friendships
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, and their paintings of the beauty spot called
La Grenouillère done in 1869 (an example by Renoir is in the National
Museum, Stockholm) are regarded as the classic early statements
of the Impressionist style.
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
'traveled 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.
change in attitude is seen in "The Umbrellas" which was
evidently begun before the visit to Italy and finished afterwards;
the two little girls on the right are painted with the feathery
brushstrokes characteristic of his Impressionist manner,
but the figures on the left are done in a crisper and drier style,
with duller coloring.
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 children in unspecific settings. As
his style became grander and simpler he also took up mythological
subjects (The Judgment of Paris; Hiroshima Museum of
Art; 1913-14), and the female type he preferred became more mature
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 (including Richard Guino, a pupil of Maillol)
to act as his hands (Venus Victorious; Tate, London;
is perhaps the best loved of all the Impressionists for his subjects--pretty
children, flowers, beautiful scenes, and above all, lovely women--have
instant appeal; 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."
Portrait of Girl
RENOIR, 1841 – 1919
has always been the basis of the paintings of Renoir. One
has only to look at the full smooth shapes, substantial and firm,
of all the women that he painted, to be convinced of that.
Be they women of the world, women of easy virtue, servant girls
or country girls, they never express fragility, license or affectation.
And very naturally he had them come out of his paintings and materialize
in front of us in three dimensions.
the summer of 1907, Maillol, who was staying at the Renoir's in
Essoyes, sculpted a bust of the painter. Soon after, Renoir
threw himself into a frenzy of sculpture and created a few medallions
of Coco (his youngest son, Claude). The following year, his
thirst of sculpture was not yet satisfied and he sculpted a bust
was not, however, the artist's first effort in relief. In
1879, he created a mirror frame decorated with delicately sculpted
flowers for Mme. Charpentier.
the pinnacle of his glory, honored and respected, happy in his family
and when he could have deepened into the pleasure of sculpting,
his vacillating health and his physical weakness prevented him from
pursuing his efforts in this field.
Renoir's sculpture remained in the mind of his art dealer, Ambroise
Vollard. From 1908 to 1912 he busily and cunningly looked
for a way to satisfy the old master's desire to sculpt.
not totally unselfish, Vollard's efforts were rewarded and when
he hired Guino, a young Catalan man (born 1890) and “lent” him to
Renoir, the sculpture project became reality.
threw himself into sculpting in an unceasing effort. He looked
at everything in the most minute detail. His subjects were taken
mostly from his paintings and drawings--their size, the technique,
and the volumes--and from this intensive work a sculptural concept
typical to Renoir took shape.