Interesting Facts About Pierre-Auguste Renoir

20 Interesting Facts About Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste was a French painter connected with the Impressionist movement. His early paintings were classic Impressionist pictures of everyday life, full of glistening color and light. Below are certain facts that you might not know about Renoir.


1. Renoir excelled as a vocalist

Renoir learned to sing as a child from the local church choirmaster. He had a natural gift for singing but was forced to give it up due to his family's financial predicament.

Who knows if his treasured paintings would have survived if he had pursued his first artistic passion. Perhaps we'd be discussing Renoir as one of the good musical artists of his time instead.


2. Renoir was a porcelain factory apprentice near the Louvre

Renoir began an apprenticeship at a porcelain factory to help support his family, and his gift for painting was ultimately recognized. He was a self-taught painter who visited the Louvre, which was close to the porcelain factory, and copied the magnificent paintings he saw there.

3. Renoir was a rapid painter; some of his works took only half an hour to complete

Some painters worked on a single piece of art for weeks, months, or even years. Renoir, on the other hand, was a quick worker. Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted a painting every two days for a month in Guernsey, an English Channel island, and returned with 15 completed pieces.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted thousands of paintings over his lifetime, owing to his dexterity with the paintbrush.


4. He married Aline Victorine Charigot, one of his favorite models

Around 1880, Renoir met Charigot, a designer 20 years his junior. During his "Ingresque" period, she was his principal model, appearing in paintings such as Blonde Bather (1882) and, most notably, Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881).

Pierre, the couple's first child, was born in 1885, and the pair married in 1890. His wife and children were frequent subjects of personal family paintings after they married. Charigot died in 1915, and the couple remained together.

5. Renoir was able to support himself as a portrait painter

In the adventurous Madame Georges Charpentier and her Children, he portrayed the affluent society lady Marguerite Charpentier in 1878. The painting was a huge success, earning a lot of praise when it was displayed at the Salon the following year.

It was composed with a mix of the modernist informal sector and classical compositional rigor. Renoir's fame expanded, and he received numerous contracts, making him a popular portraitist among well-heeled customers with avant-garde aesthetic tastes.


6. Renoir trained among Impressionist giants such as Claude Monet

Renoir entered the studio of Swiss painter Charles Gleyre in 1862 as part of his preparation for admission to the elite École des Beaux-Arts. There, he met fellow classmates Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet, with someone he would be friends with for the rest of his life.


7. Renoir and Monet collaborated closely, frequently painting the same scenes

Renoir paid a visit to Monet at La Grenouillère, a prominent Seine River retreat, in the summer of 1869. In Plein air, the two artists painted scenes from nearly equal vantage points side by side.

While both artists were concerned with capturing the transitory effects of light reflected on rippling water, Renoir's lushly sensual representation is more concentrated on showing the scene's inhabitants.

8. Renoir collaborated with Velazquez, Delacroix, and Titian during his travels

Renoir was well-known as a frequent traveler who met many people and saw many locations. His trips, however, were motivated by a desire to view the work of other artists.

He traveled to Algeria in the hopes of being inspired in the same manner that Eugene Delacroix had been, to Madrid to see Diego Velazquez's work, and to Florence to see Titian's masterpieces.


9. He created some of the most well-known images in the early modernist canon, such as the classic Bal du Moulin de la Galette

The painting's vivid colors and flowing brushwork suggest the happy open-air celebration of a Sunday afternoon in Montmartre, and it is a fine example of Renoir's ability to capture shimmering dappled light.

The work's immense scale, spanning over four by six feet, allows for a broad feeling of movement and wealth of detail, within the busy scene.

10. He barely escaped execution during the 1871 Paris Commune

Following the fall of the Second French Empire, the Paris Commune, a radical revolutionary government, temporarily ruled the capital. Renoir was painting on the banks of the Seine at the time when he was apprehended by a group of Communards who suspected him of being a spy for the French Army.

Rather than drowning the "traitor" in the river, the revolutionaries chose to take Renoir to a neighboring town hall and have him shot by a firing squad.

Fortunately, Commune commander Raoul Rigault identified Renoir as the man who had saved his life some years before. Rigault saved Renoir's life by vouching for him. 


11. He is the father of Jean Renoir, a well-known filmmaker

Jean Renoir, widely regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of all time, directed over forty films, including La Grande Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939). In 1962, Jean published Renoir, My Father, a biography in which he described the elder Renoir's lasting influence on his creative development. He was the subject of many of his father's works.


12. He was a cat lover

Many of Renoir's paintings feature cats, which are frequently used as symbols of parenthood and sensuality.

To keep himself warm as his health deteriorated in the latter decades of his life, he would often paint with one of the many cats that roamed his farm on his lap. In fact, the existence of cat hairs in the paint has been used by the Institut Pasteur in Paris to validate and date Renoir's late work.

13. Renoir began sculpting in the early twentieth century

Renoir began experimenting with new media during his final years at the advice of art dealer Ambroise Vollard.

His hands were nearly crippled at this time, so he enlisted the help of the young sculptor Richard Guino to bring his visions to life. Renoir cast about 15 sculptures with Guino's assistance.


14. After a trip to Italy in 1881, his style changed

Renoir was lured to the vast traditions of classicism after studying the paintings of Raphael and other Renaissance masters.

His works from this period, dubbed "Ingresque" after French neoclassicist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, are distinguished by a more disciplined formal approach and an emphasis on the sculptural characteristics of his themes. 

15. Later in life, he developed painful rheumatoid arthritis, which forced him to make inventive changes to his painting style

Renoir had arthritis in 1892, resulting in gradual abnormalities of his hands, ankylosis of his elbows and wrists, and eventually severe mobility limitations. Renoir's illness, of course, forced him to change his tactics.

He relocated to Cagnes-sur-Mer, near the Mediterranean shore, where he indulged in spa treatments regularly.

Photographs of the artist show him holding his paintbrush with his hands wrapped in bandages to prevent skin irritation with a palette attached to his wheelchair. It rotated freely from side to side; and a framework of horizontal cylinders and a crank would allow him to access different sections of larger canvases while seated. Renoir stays true to painting despite his failing physical state.

16. Renoir's work is unabashedly devoted to the pursuit of beauty and sensuality

Renoir's work is notable for its adherence to his audaciously opulent style, whereas other Impressionists were more engaged in formal study and social critique.

"To my perspective, a painting should be something pleasant, cheery, and lovely," Renoir justified his creative choices. Yes, it's lovely! There are already too many disagreeable things in life without adding to the list." - Renoir

17. Renoir had a specific color theory, rarely using blacks or browns in his paintings

When compared to the majority of the art world at the time, the painters had an entirely new view on shadows, because of a color theory he discussed with Monet. Shadows were not black or brown to them, but rather a reflection of the items themselves, making shadows colorful.

18. Renoir was a founder of the Impressionists, but after 1877 he stopped exhibiting with them

Renoir and several like-minded painters (notably Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, and Camille Pissarro) founded the Unknown Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers, popularly known as the Impressionists, after being rejected by the conservative Salon de Paris.

In 1874, the group had their first exhibition, at which Renoir displayed six paintings. He returned to submitting pieces to the Salon after exhibiting with the Impressionists at their second and third shows. Renoir, by this time a renowned and also in painter, raised doubts about the Impressionist aesthetic's long-term viability.


19. Renoir's politics were exposed in the Dreyfus Affair, which split France from 1894 to 1906

The unjust treason sentence of Alfred Dreyfus, a French military officer of Jewish descent, sparked the scandal. The anti-clerical, pro-Republican Dreyfusards and the pro-Army, mostly Catholic anti-Dreyfusards were split by the political crisis that ensued.

Renoir, along with the notoriously anti-Semitic Degas, belonged to the latter party; others, such as Monet and Pissarro, were certain of Dreyfus' innocence. In 1906, new evidence exonerated Dreyfus by identifying French Army major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy as the true traitor.

20. Renoir died on December 3, 1919 in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France.

Rheumatoid arthritis, which he'd suffered for years, impaired his ability to paint. He kept working and even painted with the help of assistants right up until the day he died. 



What is Pierre Renoir's most well-known work?

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste was a French painter connected with the Impressionist movement. His early paintings were classic Impressionist pictures of everyday life, full of glistening color and light.

How many works of art did Pierre-Auguste Renoir produce?

Renoir painted thousands of paintings during his long career, which ended when he died at the age of 78. The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia houses the most comprehensive single collection of his art – 181 paintings.


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