Renoir, Pierre Auguste

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

The painter Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, France, on February 25, 1841. When he was 4, his family moved to Paris. As a boy, Renoir drew on the floor with chalk from his father's tailor shop. To stop his chalk from disappearing, his father gave the young artist pencils and paper.

At 13, Renoir became an apprentice in a porcelain factory, where he decorated plates for four years. Then he painted fans and blinds and drew scenes on the walls of cafés. In 1862 he entered the Paris studio of Swiss artist Charles Gleyre (1808-74) to study art.

Renoir and his friends gradually found new ways of painting. They liked to show the fleeting changes of light on figures and landscapes by using small dabs of pure color. This kind of painting, called impressionism, was not popular, but he began to earn a little money from doing portraits. In 1879 his large picture of Madame Charpentier and her daughters was greatly admired.

About 1884, Renoir changed his technique somewhat and painted figures with careful outlines and harsh colors. In the 1890's he developed another style, using rich colors and flowing brushstrokes. Throughout his career Renoir liked to paint women and children. His wife, Aline, and their three sons were favorite later subjects. One of the sons, Jean, became a well-known filmmaker.

Because of Renoir's arthritis, the family moved to the warmer climate of southern France about 1902. But even in that climate he became so crippled that he could not leave his wheelchair. In spite of his suffering, Renoir never lost his love for life and painting. He painted a picture of flowers on the day he died--in Cagnes, December 3, 1919.

Kirsten H. Powell
Middlebury College

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