Thursday, 19 January 2012

Artists I Love: Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was undoubtedly one of the most prolific artists ever with about 6000 paintings completed during the 60 years he was active as an artist. Born in Limoges, France on February 25, 1841 to Léonard a tailor and Marguerite a seamstress, Renoir, the fourth of four children had a trouble free childhood growing up in Paris where the family had moved when the boy was aged four. Interestingly Renoir's first home in Paris was an apartment in the Louvre which was still a royal palace and his involvement with the arts came with the realisation he had a beautiful singing voice. Although the composer Gounod thought highly enough of him to arrange a musical education including a place in the chorus of the Paris Opera, Renoir decided music was not for him and at 13 accepted a position as an apprentice porcelain painter.

Renoir spent five years porcelain painting. His skillful work earnt a good income and the nick-name Mr Rubens. He was given the important job of painting profiles of Marie-Antoinette on the fine white cups. During his lunch times he would visit the art galleries of the Louvre to view the art of the masters such as Delacroix, Boucher and Fragonard. His favorite as reported by his son Jean was a 16th century sculpture titled The Fountain of the Innocents. When automation of the porcelain factory made Renoir's position obsolete he spent a year painting murals for cafes before joining the art school of Charles Gleyre in 1862.Though the schooling with Gleyre was very traditional it was of good quality and with an emphasis on sketching outdoors. Fellow students at Gleyre's school included Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frederic Bazille. Renoir's connection with these artists led to him meeting Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet as well as leading writers and critics. The concepts of impressionism developed from the times this group spent together in the cafes of Paris. The pieces that are generally attributed to be the first impressionist paintings are those produced by Renoir and Monet during the summer of 1869.

Prior to this, Renoir had met 16 year old Lise Tréhot, whose dark features and rounded figure attracted Renoir. Lise became Renoir's favorite model and mistress, he painted her more than 20 times between 1865 and 1872. In 1872 they separated, Lise married soon after and they were never to see each other again.

1870 saw Renoir called up for duty in the Franco-Prussian War. He trained horses in the Pyrenees, far from the action but his friend Fredric Bazille was killed. In 1871 Renoir returned to Paris, the impressionist group reformed and he met Paul Durand-Ruel, the first art dealer to support the impressionists. This led to enough sales for Renoir to move into a large studio in the Rue St Georges.

Although the first impressionist exhibition was held in 1874, of which Renoir was a part of, the impressionists still struggled for acceptance from the establishment and consequently times were difficult financially for Renoir.
Personally, I have always found Renoir's use of scintillating light on skin tones to be sublime, and try as I may, I can seldom feel close to achieving similar results.

I hope you enjoy reading and viewing my favorite artists.

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