Pierre – Auguste Renoir

Pierre Auguste Renoir is not only one of the founders of Impressionism, but also one of the most remembered. It was while he was attending the studio of Charles Gleyre that Renoir decided to make this break from conventional painting. Then modern painting portrayed the world in an idealized light, something that Renoir didn’t agree with. From this need for change Impressionism was born with Renoir, along with lifelong friend and fellow artist Monet, in the forefront.

While Impressionism today is one of the most beloved genres of the art world, this was not always the case. Consumers in 19th century France were largely against the movement so finding a clientele base was difficult and left many of the Impressionists scrambling for cash. Renoir, however, largely stayed afloat when many of his contemporary impressionists did not. While so many of Renoir’s friends came from wealthy, even aristocratic, backgrounds Renoir did not. The son of a seamstress and a tailor, Renoir was used to work from a young age, being employed at a porcelain factory when he was very young. He never forgot those lessons from when he was young man which helped immeasurably later in life.

Many portraits can be found by Renoir’s hand. This doesn’t seem out of place until one takes the very ideals of Impressionism into account. Impressionist works are almost exclusively of the outdoors. Any individuals which may be included in the painting are done so in a naturalistic setting, allowing for the play of sunlight and shadow which the impressionists so loved. Portraits mostly depict indoor settings, relying only on lamplight and windows for the dappled sun and shadow of the impressionist brush.

Renoir took this unconventional Impressionistic stance in order to secure his clientele base. His most famous work, Madame Charpentier and Her Children, is an enourmous portrait of this well-known hostess. The Charpentier’s were great patrons not only of Renoir’s but of Impressionism at large. Figures can be found in nearly all of Renoir’s works. When not a formal portrait of an upstanding individual of Parisian society we find young women painted in gardens. Many of the other impressionists such as Claude Monet, Frederic Bazille, and others populate Renoir’s paintings as well, though they are not always named in the title.

An Impressionist at the beginning, Auguste Renoir did not always stay as such. After a trip to Italy, Renoir became intensely interested in mythology. Influenced by what he saw, Renoir created a series of realistic paintings with mythological settings and characters before eventually transitioning back to a style more akin to that of early Impressionism. Renoir’s career spanned from the 1860s all the way into the 20th century.
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