Artist. A painter and sculptor, he was one of the founders and leading promoters of Impressionism, a French art movement whose members sought in their works to capture the first impression of an object upon being viewed. Renoir's paintings are characterized by his brilliant use of vibrant colors, intricate compositions, and trademark feathery brushstrokes. He was one of five sons born to a poor tailor. When he was four, his family moved to Paris where he was educated in local Catholic schools and enjoyed a self-study of art in the nearby world-renowned art museum, the Louvre. At thirteen, he found employment as an apprentice in a porcelain factory where he decorated china. At this point, his life's path became clear to him; he dreamed of being a full-fledged artist. He was finally able to enroll at the Ecole des Beaux, School of Art. In 1862 he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met other well-known artists such as Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet. After having many failed attempts to a professional breakthrough, he was accepted in 1864 into the prestigious Paris Salon Annual Exhibit showing the painting, "La Esmeralda," which was inspired by a character from Victor Hugo's “Notre-Dame de Paris.” The following year at the Paris Salon, his showing was a portrait of William Sisley, the wealthy father of artist Alfred Sisley. These showings promoted his notoriety in the art world. In 1870, he served in the Franco-Prussian War but since he was ill, never saw battle. In the 1880’s, he traveled to Algeria, Italy and in the south of France painting canvas after canvas on his journey. With a keen eye that captured light and shadows like no one else, he painted playful children, curvy nudes bathing, flowers and fruits, beautiful ladies, and landscapes. In 1890 he married Aline Victorine Charigot, an artist’s model who often posed for him. They had three sons: Jean, who became a famous film producer and in 1962 wrote his father’s biography “Renoir, My Father”; Pierre, who became a stage and film actor; and born in 1901, Claude who was often his father’s model. In 1903, he was diagnosed with crippling arthritis. As he became more disabled, he continued to work with brushes tied to his deformed arthritic fingers. During the last fifteen years of his life, he was bounded to a wheelchair as he could barely walk. A prolific artist, he made several thousand paintings with the ones done later in his lifetime being more Classical than Impressionism. He painted five self-portraits with the last two in 1910. He suffered a stroke in 1912, yet continued to paint. His last painting in 1919, “Landscape,” shows a distant mount of trees in bright shades of green with a ghost-like figure of a women wearing white; no fine details, yet his talent was still there on canvas. In December 1919 he contracted pneumonia, which was complicated with a heart attack that took his life. Two of Renoir's paintings have sold for more than $70 million; the 1876 Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre sold for $78.1 million in 1990 ranking 18th on the list of the most expensive painting ever sold.
Bio by: Linda Davis