Finding Inspiration in the World’s Great Art

Renoir—co-founder of the Impressionist movement

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, commonly known as Auguste Renoir, (1841-1919), was a French artist who was a leading painter in the develop-ment of the Impressionist style.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, in 1841. His father, Léonard Renoir, was a tailor of modest means, so in 1844, Renoir’s family moved to Paris in search of more favorable prospects. The location of their home, on rue d’Argenteuil in central Paris, placed Renoir in proximity to the Louvre.

Although Renoir displayed a talent for his work, he frequently tired of the subject matter and sought refuge in the galleries of the Louvre. The owner of the factory recognized his apprentice’s talent and communicated this to Renoir’s family. Following this, Renoir started taking lessons to prepare for entry into École des Beaux Arts. When the porcelain factory adopted mechanical reproduction processes in 1858, Renoir was forced to find other means to support his learning. Before he enrolled in art school, he also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and decorations on fans.

In 1862, he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet. Although Renoir first started exhibiting paintings at the Paris Salon[3] in 1864, recognition was slow in coming, partly as a result of the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.

In 1874, a ten-year friendship with Jules Le Cœur and his family ended, and Renoir lost not only the valuable support gained by the association but also a generous welcome to stay on their property near Fontainebleau and its scenic forest. This loss of a favorite painting location resulted in a distinct change of subjects.

Renoir’s paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated color, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid composi-tions. In characteristic Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of color, so that his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.

In the late 1860s, through the practice of painting light and water en plein air (outdoors), he and his friend Claude Monet discovered that the color of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected color of the objects surrounding them, an effect known today as diffuse reflection. Several pairs of paintings exist in which Renoir and Monet worked side-by-side, depicting the same scenes.

One of the best known Impressionist works is Renoir’s 1876 Dance at Le moulin de la Galette (Bal du Moulin de la Galette). The painting depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre close to where he lived. The works of his early maturity were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women. It was a trip to Italy in 1881 when he saw works by Raphael and other Renaissance masters, that convinced him that he was on the wrong path, and for the next several years he painted in a more severe style in an attempt to return to classicism.

A prolific artist, he created several thousand paintings. The warm sensuality of Renoir’s style made his paintings some of the most well-known and frequently reproduced works in the history of art. The single largest collection of his works—181 paintings in all—is at the Barnes Foundation, in Philadelphia.

Two of Renoir’s paintings have sold for more than US$70 million. Bal au Moulin de la Galette sold for $78.1 million in 1990.[1]

(Article Source: Wikipedia)

Impressionism can be considered the first distinctly modern movement in painting. Developing in Paris in the 1860s, its influence spread throughout Europe and eventually the United States. Its originators were artists who rejected the official, government-sanctioned exhibitions, or salons, and were consequently shunned by powerful academic art institutions. In turning away from the fine finish and detail to which most artists of their day aspired, the Impressionists aimed to capture the momentary, sensory effect of a scene - the impression objects made on the eye in a fleeting instant. To achieve this effect, many Impressionist artists moved from the studio to the streets and countryside, painting en plein air.

An École des Beaux-Arts is one of a number of influential art schools in France. The most famous is the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, located in Paris, across the Seine from the Louvre. The school has a history spanning more than 350 years, training many of the great artists in Europe.

The Salon or Paris Salon beginning in 1667 was the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Between 1748 and 1890 it was arguably the greatest annual or biennial art event in the Western world. The Salon exhibited paintings floor-to-ceiling and on every available inch of space. Printed catalogues of the Salons are primary documents for art historians. Critical descriptions of the exhibitions published in the gazettes mark the beginning of the modern occupation of art critic.

[1] Los Angeles Times: “Renoir Work Sells For $78.1 Million.” May 18, 1990.



Self-portrait 1910.

Photo of Renoir 1910.

(From Bibliothèque nationale de France.


Self-portrait 1876.


Woman Gathering Flowers. Read the devotional now.


Dance at Le moulin de la Galette.

Portrait of Claude Monet 1875.

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard 1908.



Renoir: His Life and Works in 500 Images: An illustrated exlporation of the artist, his life and context, with a gallery of 300 of his greatest works. Hardcover.