In 1862, Renoir joined the classical painting school of Charles Gleyre, where he met Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet, who were all exploring plein air painting and studying the effects of color and light.
He first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1864, but his recognition did not come for nearly a decade. Through the 1960s, he sometimes could hardly afford to even buy paints. Finally in 1874, he displayed six works at the first Salon des Réfuses, the pioneer exhibition of the Impressionists. With a new avant-garde audience, Renoir found acceptance and recognition of his extraordinary abilities.
Although he was one of the most controversial Impressionists, Renoir eventually established himself with the general public and eventually participated in the official Salons. By 1880, he also began concentrating on painting the female figure. But Renoir never gave up his roots as a traditional arts craftsman and as an admirer of the old masters. In the early 1880s Renoir had the feeling of exhaustion and that he had done everything he could do with Impressionist style.
Starting in 1881, Renoir traveled to Algeria, Spain, and Italy, absorbing the styles and techniques of Delacroix, Velazquez, Raphael, and Titian. Through the 1880s, he worked with the Italian style of restrained brushwork and empathetic modeling of subjects, focusing on details and more elaborate lines. In 1883, he spent a prolific summer painting at Guernsey, an island in the English Channel.
As Renoir matured, his style changed again, growing softer and more sketchily outlined. He used very strong colors—often reds and oranges—and thick brush strokes. His preferred subjects were voluptuous young female nudes.
Stricken with severe arthritis, by 1903 he was hardly able to hold the brush. Yet, still determined to paint, he resorted to strapping the brush to his wrist. This improvised technique affected his style in the last decade of his life, but it allowed him to continue painting through the last years of his life. At the end of his life in 1919, Renoir had the rare opportunity to see his own paintings hanging at the Louvre alongside the masterpieces that influenced him as a young boy.
Museum Collections include…