Renoir, Pierre Auguste

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Renoir, Pierre Auguste

Renoir, Pierre Auguste (pyĕr ōgüstˈ) (rənwärˈ), 1841–1919, French impressionist painter and sculptor, b. Limoges. Renoir went to work at the age of 13 in Paris as a decorator of factory-made porcelain, copying the works of Boucher. In 1862 he entered M. C. Gleyre's studio, where he formed lasting friendships with Bazille, Monet and Sisley. His early work reflected myriad influences including those of Courbet, Manet, Corot, Ingres and Delacroix. He began to earn his living with portraiture in the 1870s; an important work of this period was Madame Charpentier and her Children (1876; Metropolitan Mus.). Simultaneously he developed the ability to paint joyous, shimmering color and flickering light in outdoor scenes such as The Swing and the festive Moulin de la Galette (both: 1876; Louvre). Renoir traveled in Algeria and in Italy (1881–82), returning to Paris where a successful exhibition (1883) established him financially. He had gone beyond impressionism. His ecstatic sensuality, particularly in his opulent, generalized images of women, and his admiration of the Italian masters removed him from the primary impressionist concern: to imitate the effects of natural light. After a brief period, often termed “harsh” or “tight,” in which his forms were closely defined in outline (e.g., The Bathers, 1884–87; private coll.), his style of the 1890s changed, diffusing both light and outline, and with dazzling, opalescent colors describing voluptuous nudes, radiant children, and lush summer landscapes. From 1903, Renoir fought the encroaching paralysis of arthritis at the same time that his work attained its greatest sensual power and monumentality. Despite illness and personal tragedy he began to produce major works of sculpture (e.g., Victorious Venus, Renoir Mus., Cagnes-sur-Mer). Among his most celebrated paintings are: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881; Phillips Coll., Washington, D.C.); Dance at Bougival (1883; Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston); Lady Sewing (Art Inst., Chicago); and Bather (1917–18; Philadelphia Mus. of Art). Renoir's work is represented in most of the important galleries in the world. The Art Institute of Chicago; the Barnes Collection, Merion, Pa.; Clark Institute, Williamstown, Mass.; and the Louvre have large collections. His son, the film director Jean Renoir, wrote a biography (tr. 1962).


See biography by B. E. White (2017); studies by W. Gaunt (1983), D. Rouart (1985), A. Distel (1995), and B. E. White (2010).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Renoir, Pierre Auguste


Born Feb. 25, 1841, in Limoges; died Dec. 17, 1919, in Cagnes, near Nice. French painter, graphic artist, and sculptor. One of the founders of impressionism.

Renoir’s family settled in Paris in 1845. Beginning in 1854, Renoir worked as a painter of porcelain articles, cloth panels, and fans. From 1862 to 1864 he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and in C. Gleyre’s studio, where he became acquainted with Monet, Sisley, and Bazille. Renoir’s early works, which reflect the influence of Courbet and Manet, are marked by thick brush work and clearly outlined forms (for example, The Painter Sisley and His Wife, 1868, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne).

In the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, Renoir turned to painting out-of-doors, integrating the human figure into the changing light and air (for example, Bathing in the Seine, 1869, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow). His palette brightened, and his brushstroke became transparent and vibrant. There are soft contrasts of warm shadows and rich silver-pearl areas of illumination (for example, The Box at the Theater, 1874, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London).

Unlike the majority of impressionists, Renoir, along with Degas, was interested above all in the individuality of the person—his unity with nature and his relationship with other people in chance encounters. He revealed delicate nuances of his subject’s mood (for example, Portrait of V. Chocquet, 1876, private collection, USA), the emotionality of the artistic nature (for example, the study for a portrait of J. Samary, 1877, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), and the spontaneity of youth (for example, Mme. Grimpel With the Light Blue Ribbon, 1880, private collection, Paris).

Renoir emphasized the fullness of life in his portraits and genre scenes. He was attracted to the festive side of city life—particularly to balls, dances, and promenades with their dynamic and colorful participants (for example, Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876, Museum of Impressionism, Paris). He was also interested in tranquil scenes (for example After Dinner, 1879, Städel Art Institute, Frankfurt am Main). The scenes appear fragmentary, plucked from the stream of life; yet they do not depict insignificant or fleeting events. They possess an almost classical sense of permanence and order: they seem slowed down, as if extended in time, and are always compositionally balanced.

Renoir’s female figures are imbued with special charm. Although they each have their own unique characters, they are physically similar—with almond-shaped eyes, round faces, and smooth silhouettes. Each seems to be marked by the general stamp of the milieu and epoch (for example, The Umbrellas, 1879, National Gallery, London; Two Girls in Black, 1883, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts). Renoir also affirmed contemporary feminine beauty in his nudes, attaining an exquisite rendering of skin based on the combination of basic golden tones and greenish blue reflexes. His treatment of the nude body is marked by soft plasticity (for example, Nude Woman Sitting on a Bed, 1876, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts).

Beginning in the 1880’s, Renoir’s works acquired a classical clarity. (In 1881–82 the artist visited Italy.) Decorative elements appeared more frequently. Forms were outlined, modeling became harsh, and orange-pink tones prevailed.

Renoir’s numerous drawings are distinguished by simplicity and by lightness of stroke. His sculptures, chiefly those of the early 1900’s, are stylistically similar to those of Maillol (for example, Venus, bronze, 1914–16, Wallraf-Richartz Museum). Renoir’s joyous and profound humanism greatly influenced the development of 20th-century realistic art.


Vollard, A. Renuar. Leningrad, 1934. (Translated from French. Introduction by A. V. Lunacharskii.)
O Renuar. (Album. Introduction by M. Prokof’eva. Moscow, 1966.)
Vel’chinskaia, I. Renuar (album). Moscow, 1970.
Rivière, G. Renoir et ses amis. Paris, 1921.
Renoir, J. Renoir. Paris, 1962. (Russian translation: Moscow, 1970.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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