Van Gogh •
Pierre Auguste Renoir
Pierre Auguste Renoir
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Pierre Auguste Renoir, the genius and traditionalist of the Impressionist movement, and a follower in the grand line of Titian,
was born in Limoges, the son of a tailor.
Renoir began his career by painting porcelain plates, fans, and window blinds, before entering the Académie Gleyre in 1862.
His meeting with
and their removal to Fountainbleau to paint from nature brought him into the heart of the Impressionist movement, although his paintings
before 1870 were in the classical tradition and show the influences of
Between 1870 and 1880, Renoir was a pure Impressionist, painting with the characteristic touches of broken color and in exquisite hues.
Unlike his companions, he preferred figure painting to landscapes and created portraits and scenes of social life in a manner that is at
once joyously alive, tender, and sensuous. By 1880, Renoir felt that he could go no further as an Impressionist, and in 1881 he went to
Italy, staying at first in Venice, next in Rome where he studied
frescoes, and finally in Naples and Pompeii.
Upon his return to France, Renoir decided that he knew nothing about drawing or the rendering of form and began to copy the works of
Ingres and Renaissance bas-reliefs. He also spent considerable
time with Cezanne.
His own work took on an acid tone, a hard line, a smooth flat texture, and an attention to form rather than color-a manner he himself
called aigre (sour or acid). From this period came the great series of "Bathers" (ca. 1895). His final style, derived from previous
experiments, combines line and color, volume and light, a delight in plastic values that derives in part from the paganism of the
ancient Greeks, and an optimistic outlook on life. His paintings glorify women. He loved their beauty and their gentleness, their
laughter and their gravity, their tenderness and their coquetry. This same understanding applies to his paintings of children whom he
painted with an eye for their naturalness and simplicity. Renoir's love of painting was so great, that even in his final years, confined
to bed with brushes bound to his crippled, arthritic wrists, he produced Olympian canvases with resonant colors.