Pierre - Auguste Renoir: Beauty and Form
By Melissa Montgomery
Pierre- Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, France in 1841. The town of Limoges, famous for its ceramics industry, had a lasting effect on the young boy: when his family relocated to Paris, Pierre- August painted flowers on china in a porcelain factory at the age of thirteen. He began to take drawing classes and in 1860 he began to take classes in the same studio as Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frederic Bazille, the men who would start the Impressionist movement. Renoir was given permission to sketch in the Louvre and in 1862 he was admitted to the prestigious Ecole de Beaux Arts.
Renoir’s first painting that put him on the map was Lise, which was a portrait of his then mistress. He then began living with Bazille and Monet. Their influence in his work is evident in the bright colors and small brush strokes Renoir used. They fed off each other and although they did not have lots of money, what they taught each other was priceless.
In the 1870’s Renoir’s career and that of The Impressionists became firmly established. Impressionism is a lighter more spontaneous way of painting and is named after Monet’s Impression: Sunrise (which was singled out for immense criticism initially). It was a reaction to the strict lines in the academic art of the period. Paintings such as Bal at the Moulin de la Galette capture the time and the feeling in Paris. Renoir’s ability to imitate light as well as human facial expressions made his paintings like photographs. Renoir was known to work on one canvas for months at a time, constantly adding or removing characters. Renoir loved people and they are always dominant in his work.
Le Moulin de la Galette
In 1890 Renoir met and married Aline Charigot. She is the model in Luncheon of the Boating Party. The Impressionists were often criticized for sketching, but they were also considered masters of space time, character, still life, landscape and portraiture. In 1893, Renoir solidified his professional career with a solo show at the Durand Ruel Gallery in Paris. His children were born in the mid to late 1890’s and this change in his life is reflected in his interest in the body in his work.
1887’s series The Bathers is unsurpassed in its depiction of the female form, particularly the skin. The influence of colour and the early teaching in drawing plus the influence of Bazille and Monet culminated in a beautiful series of women bathing a sunning themselves in a beautiful country setting.
By the 1890’s years of painting had taken their toll on Renoir’s body, he was suffering from arthritis. He was living with his family outside the city of Paris and continued to paint by having a paintbrush strapped to his arm. He still managed to paint for twenty years until his death in 1913. The landscape, Terrace at Cagnes is the most well known one from this his last period.
Renoir is one of the greatest Impressionists and today his work still sells for millions of dollars. His technique is studied at every art school and many people confess to having a poster or fridge magnet at home so they too can own a piece of Renoir. Renoir has been quoted as saying: “Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world."
Why not, indeed?
Relevant links: http://www.pierre-auguste-renoir.org/