Pierre Auguste Renoir painted many paintings that are known by people all over the world. Millions of people love and recognize Renoir's beautiful, unique paintings of women and groups of people. He is one of the world's most famous artists. As with many other artists, Pierre Auguste Renoir did not become famous until after his death and was considered a failure during his life.
Pierre Auguste Renoir was born on February 25, 1841 in Limoges, France. He was the youngest of six children. Pierre's father, L'eonard Renoir, took his wife, Marguerite Merlet, and their six kids, to Paris in 1844. L'eonard earned a living as a tailor.
When Pierre was little, he spent a lot of time in his father's tailor shop. There, his mother taught him to draw. He liked drawing so much, he drew on the walls, all over the shop, and on the clothes that hung on the walls. Renoir's parents didn't mind. When Pierre was 13 years old, his parents arranged for him to get a job in a workshop painting decorations on china plates, cups, and vases. He was making good money, and he liked to paint. Later, Renior was promoted to paint portraits of famous people on the china.
When Renoir was 20 years old, he decided to quit his job so he could go to an art school. He joined the studio of a well known artist named Charles Gleyre. Gleyre taught his students to paint and draw as other famous artists did in thattime. This was a well known style, and it was most likely to be accepted by the Salon. The Salon was the most important and famous official government art show of its time.
Three of Renoir's friends and classmates, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, andFrederic Bazille, were tired of the popular style of painting. They wanted to try new ways of painting. Claude Monet invited his friends to join him in the near-by forest of Fontainebleau to paint pictures of nature outdoors. Renoir accepted the invitation because no one really painted outside. At the time, most artist would sketch scenes outdoors for ideas, but they would always finish their paintings back in the studio.
One day, Renoir and Monet decided to paint some scenes of an area near Paris where people came to have a good time boating and swimming. The two artists painted their own impression of the same scene. They titled their oil paintings, "La Grenouillere." These were among the earliest Impressionist paintings ever done. Impressionism is different from the earlier painting styles because Impressionism is painted with quick brush strokes, but the other styles were done with solid brush strokes that were done carefully. The old style looked more real and life like. The Impressionists paintings looked fuzzy and with not as much detail.
Even though Renoir loved the look of Impressionism, he still painted in the older style just to get in the Salon and make money. Since the Salon would not accept the new Impressionist paintings, Renoir and his friends decided to put on their own exhibition.
As soon as their exhibit opened, things did not go very well. Most people did not like the new work at all. They thought that the paintings were sloppily done and the artist did not pay any attention to detail. Most people thought the artist were playing a cruel joke on them and they might even be crazy!
Fortunately, several people in Paris did think the Impressionists' works werequite good. A successful businessman asked Renoir to paint a portrait of him and his lovely fiancee dancing together. Renoir titled the painting, "Dance Bougival."
Renoir often had his friends sit as models in his paintings. He usually had them pose outdoors having a good time. This is how Renoir met his wife, Aline Charigot. He asked a group of friends to model on a boat, having a party. This was Aline's first model sitting. Renoir called the painting "Lucheon of the Boating Party."
Pierre Auguste Renoir was very happy and in love with his favorite model, Aline. They married and had three sons, Pierre, Jean, and Claude. Now Renoir painted portraits of his family as well as friends. After Renoir's marriage to Aline, the public was finally starting to realize how beautiful the Impressionists' paintings were.
Just when things were going great, with years of hard work, Renoir decided to change his painting style. His friends were in shock as they asked the question, "Why would he want to make a change?" Renoir responded with, "I'm not exactly bored with my style of work. I just thought it was time for something new and different." Renoir decided to combine Impressionism with the older styles. He started changing his style right in the middle of painting "Umbrellas."
In Renoir's painting of the "Umbrellas," the artist painted the right half of the canvas with the Impressionist style. He used quick feathery brush strokes and delicate colors, while the left side of the canvas is painted with smoother and solid objects, using duller colors and solid outlines.
Near the end of his life, Renoir finally found a style that satisfied him. Thiswas a combination of Impressionism and the older styles. He finally was happy with his work. Just before he died, Renoir told a friend, "I think I'm beginning to understand something about painting." Renoir died at the age of 78 on December 3, 1919.
You can find most of his paintings at these museums:
Venezia, Mike. Pierre Auguste Renoir. New York: Children's Press, 1996.
Gruitrooy, Gerhard. Renoir A Master Of Impressionism. New York: Todtri Productions Limited, 1994.
Shiff, Richard. "Renoir, Pierre Auguste." World Book Encyclopedia, 2001.