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10 things to know about Pierre-Auguste Renoir

10 things to know about Pierre-Auguste Renoir
A guide to the artist who was one of the founding fathers of Impressionism, and is famed today for his lush depictions of female sensuality — featuring works offered at Christie’s.
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  • Renoir’s early life was shaped by poverty

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in 1841 in Limoges in south-west France. His father was a tailor and his mother was a dressmaker, which is perhaps significant given that he would go on to become fascinated by fashion.

In his early life he was appreciated more for his singing than for his drawing. He took music lessons until his family encountered financial difficulties, which forced him to leave school and begin work as a painter in a porcelain factory.

As a young man Renoir moved to Paris, entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and later joined the studio of Charles Gleyre (1806-1874). Although he sometimes didn’t have enough money to buy paint, he lived close to the Louvre, where he enjoyed studying the works of the Old Masters.

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  • He was one of the main founders of Impressionism

In 1869 Renoir began sketching beside the water at La Grenouillère, outside Paris, with Claude Monet. This was a seminal moment in the history of art as the two men simultaneously developed several of the theories, techniques and practices that would give rise to Impressionism, including using loose brushstrokes to capture the effects of light and movement on the trees and water at various times of day.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Sentier dans le bois, 1874-77. Oil on canvas, 25¾ x 21¼ in (65.5 x 54 cm). Estimate £7,500,000-10,500,000. Offered in Hidden Treasures on 27 February 2019 at Christie‘s in London
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Sentier dans le bois, 1874-77. Oil on canvas, 25¾ x 21¼ in (65.5 x 54 cm). Estimate: £7,500,000-10,500,000. Offered in Hidden Treasures on 27 February 2019 at Christie‘s in London

Renoir’s sun-dappled Sentier dans le bois, painted in 1874, is quintessentially Impressionist, focussing on the artist’s fleeting sensations before nature. The vibrating tissue of broken brushstrokes, a revolutionary departure from Salon norms, evokes the flickering play of sunlight as well as the gentle rustling of the breeze.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Lombrelle, painted in 1878. 24⅜ x 20 in (61.9 x 50.8 cm). Sold for £9,673,250 on 6 February 2013 at Christie’s in London
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), L’ombrelle, painted in 1878. 24⅜ x 20 in (61.9 x 50.8 cm). Sold for £9,673,250 on 6 February 2013 at Christie’s in London
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  • Renoir’s Impressionist work was rejected by the Salon

On occasion during the 1860s, Renoir submitted paintings that were accepted into the famous Salon exhibitions, as did Monet. But as their painterly experiments gathered pace in the 1870s, both artists found their works were repeatedly rejected.

Eventually, they ceased submitting pictures for consideration and when Monet started his own independent artists’ society, which became known as the Impressionists, Renoir was one of the first to join. He displayed six paintings in the First Impressionist Exhibition  in April 1874.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Au Théâtre, la loge, painted in 1894. 18⅛ x 22 in (46 x 55.8 cm). Sold for $6,089,000 on 6 May 2008 at Christie’s in New York
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Au Théâtre, la loge, painted in 1894. 18⅛ x 22 in (46 x 55.8 cm). Sold for $6,089,000 on 6 May 2008 at Christie’s in New York

Renoir painted figures in fashionable dress, positioning his models in modern settings: crowded boulevards, cafés, theatres, sun-dappled parks, and e