Auguste Renoir

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Biography of Auguste Renoir ( 1841-1919 )

An immense and paternalistic figure of French painting in the second half of the 19th century, Renoir is often described as the "painter of happiness" but also of women and sensuality.

During his long life, Renoir painted more than 5,000 pictures, including numerous essays and drafts whose exaggerated commercial distribution did him harm. But he remains the painter of several hundred masterpieces, now on the walls of the world's greatest art institutions.

From an apprentice painter on porcelain and then on fans in his early years, Pierre-Auguste Renoir passed the entrance exam to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1862 and entered the studio of Charles Gleyre, where he met Claude Monet, Frédéric Bazille and Alfred Sisley. Together they went to the forest of Fontainebleau to paint from the motif. Later, his move to the Paris surroundings, along the Seine, changed his palette and was to be decisive in his Impressionist period. After the Franco-Prussian War, he met the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, settled in Montmartre and took part in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. He painted his masterpiece: le Bal du Moulin de la Galette, in Montmartre, in 1877. 

After some difficult years, a break in his impressionist work and a return to the official Salon, he travelled (between 1881 and 1883) to the south of France, North Africa and Italy, where, through contact with the paintings of Raphael, he rediscovered a major inspiration. From his reflections, the famous Grandes Baigneuses (Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts) were born in 1887; this masterpiece inaugurates the series of nudes and bathers that Renoir painted with passion until the last days of his life.

By 1896, Renoir had become a major figure, exhibiting throughout Europe and the United States and participating in les Salons d’automne in Paris. However, he kept his taste for simple things and continued to paint in the rustic environment of his estate in the south of France. He tried out new techniques, and in particular took up sculpture, encouraged by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard.

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