Our Artists

Auguste Renoir

French painter and graphic artist Auguste Renoir became a major figure in Impressionism as a result of his many masterpieces. Feeling himself to be “at a dead end”, Renoir moved away from Impressionism to impose his personal style, dominated by joy and sensuality.   Criticised at first, his characteristic work was very soon recognised by the critics and the public. 


Renoir the Impressionist

Born in Limoges on the 25th February 1841, Pierre-Auguste Renoir began to paint at a very early age.  In 1862 he entered the School of Fine Art and visitted Gleyre’s workshop; here he met Monet, Bazille and Sisley, who became his close friends.  His early works, including Diana the Huntress, were marked by Courbet’s influence. In 1868 he exhibited his famous painting Lise with an umbrella at the “Salon” and met with great success.  The summer of 1869 marked a turning point in his career: while at la Grenouillère, Renoir began to paint outdoors and gradually moved away from his masters by joining the Impressionist movement.  He completed The Theatre Box (1874), Dance at the Moulin de la Galette (1876), Boating Party Luncheon (1880-1881), and Madame Charpentier and her children (1880), a prestigious portrait that earned him many other commissions. 

The Ingres period (1883-1890) and the “mother-of-pearl” period (1890-1897)

On the strength of this increasing success Renoir continued to question his artistic style: “In around 1883, it was as if there was a breakdown in my work. I had reached the limits of Impressionism and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know how to paint or draw. In a word, I had reached a dead end”.  Auguste Renoir moved away from Impressionism and entered a new phase known as his “Ingres” or “dry” period.    His drawing became more precise (The umbrellas, 1883), the outlines more clearly defined and the spread of light more uniform (The Bathers, 1887). The artist was criticised.  He was not part of any movement and his work was not accepted by academic circles or critics. 1890-1897 marked a new turning point.  Without returning to Impressionism, Renoir abandoned the linear style and adopted a greater fluidity with transparent effects. Two girls at the piano (1892) was a typical work from this period known as the “mother-of-pearl” period.


With his “mother-of-pearl” period, Renoir had achieved pictorial maturity and finally succeeded in imposing his personal style. The public and the critics appreciated him and he was also recognised in official circles.  He suffered greatly from rheumatism which deformed his hands, and moved to the South of France with his wife and three children.  He continued to paint, mainly portraits and female nudes, with a paintbrush attached to his hand.  Renoir exhibited his works in Europe and the United States, but this worldwide fame did not make him lose his sense of reality.  A short while before he died in Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1919, he said the following to his nurse about painting: “I think I am beginning to understand something about it”, thus illustrating his characteristic humility. 


Lise à l'ombrelle, Lise with an umbrella1867
La Grenouillère, 1869
Nature morte aux pommes Still life with apples
Claude Monet lisant, Claude Monet reading1872
La Seine à Argenteuil, The Seine at Argentueil, 1873
Bal au moulin de la Galette, Dance at the Moulin de la Galette,1876
La balançoire, The swing, 1876
Madame Alphonse Daudet, 1876
Portrait de l'artiste, Portrait of the Artist, 1879
Le Déjeuner des canotiers, Boating party luncheon, 1880-1881
Femme nue couchée, Naked woman lying down, 1906
Jeune fille assise, Young girl seated, 1909
Les Baigneuses, The Bathers, 1918
Pins à Cagnes, Pine trees at Cagnes, 1919

Useful links

The Renoir Museum, in Cagnes-sur-Mer: visit the artist’s workshop, eleven original paintings and several sculptures at the heart of the Domaine des Collettes, where Auguste Renoir lived from 1908 until his death. There is free access to the garden. 


Nationality(ies) : French
Born on : 25/02/1841
Died on : 03/12/1919
Profile : Designer, Painter
Artistic current(s) : Impressionism
Theme(s) covered : Love - friendship, Art of living, Fine Art, Celebrities, Landscapes - Nature, Portraits - Characters