If you want to brighten up your weekend, travel virtually through the works of Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). The French artist was not only an important figure in 19th century art, but also played a central role in the Impressionist movement. Along with Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro, he opened new avenues for world art. His career was very successful and acknowledging his style of mixing traditional Parisian outdoor scenes with female nude paintings.
He was born in Limoges, in the southwest of France. His father was a tailor and ended up moving to Paris near the Louvre, an area that began to fascinate him as he got to know new artists or new paintings. He had classical training and even studied at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
His work comprises many landscapes and familiar scenes, as well as lively and joyful occasions, often depicting people dancing. He is known for his approach to women, often portraying huge figures in sensual scenes. Renoir’s Impressionist paintings not only made him one of the leaders of the movement, but also earned him a reputation as one of the great painters of the 19th century, widely recognized for his vibrant use of color and spectacular depiction of light. For today’s column, I’ve selected ten works by Renoir:
1- La Grenouillère (1869) –
Few know, but Renoir began his career as a porcelain painter. Afterwards, he began copying the works of masters that were on display at the Louvre Museum. In 1862 he became a student of Charles Gleyre, where he met Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. It was thanks to a trip he took with Monet, in the summer of 1869, that he discovered the region of La Grenouillère, a place of leisure on the banks of the River Seine, outside the center of Paris. In that time they spent outdoors, they produced wonderful paintings that are very similar. Note the similarity between Monet’s version and Renoir’s work.
2-Le moulin de la galette (1876)–
This painting is a masterpiece of Impressionism and, perhaps, Renoir’s most famous work. The painting was inspired by one of the Sunday afternoons at Moulin de la Galette, a very lively place in Paris located in the Monmatre region, which to this day stands out for its busy life with its bars and restaurants. There was a windmill there that produced a bread called ‘galette’ and hence the name. Renoir’s look at life and leisure in France is filled with actors, artists, critics and members of Renoir’s family. Several of Renoir’s friends, including his brother Edmond, posed as models to help with the production of the painting, done outdoors to portray the freshness, cheerful mood and people’s enthusiasm for the sunny day and party atmosphere. The canvas is emblematic for the entire Impressionist movement and for world art. It shows color and brightness in the faces and clothes, highlighting the luminosity between the shadows of the trees. Renoir’s quick stroke manages to fix time, without losing any of the intensity and excitement of the moment. Those who look at the scene also get the feeling that they can almost hear the music or the voices of people having fun. A spectacle in every detail.
3-The Boatmen’s Lunch (1880-1881) –
Renoir refused to participate in the fourth Impressionist exhibition which took place in 1878 and began to draw inspiration from the classical sources of the time. His figures become more defined and his works more structured. ‘The Boatmen’s Lunch’ combines all the subjects Renoir loved to paint: still lifes, portraits of familiar people and outdoor scenes. As usual, Renoir records many of his close friends, including artist Gustave Caillebotte, who is seated wearing a white shirt and boatman’s hat. Others portrayed are collector Charles Ephrussi, poet Jules Laforgue and Renoir’s future wife Aline Charigot. The painting shows the artist’s friends having lunch at Maison Fournaise, a restaurant on an island in the River Seine and frequented by artists. Anyone looking at the painting has the feeling of being part of the scene.
4-Dance in Bougival (1883) –
Renoir portrayed a couple dancing in three different ways. Suzanne Valadon and Paul Lhote, two of his friends, were the models used to capture the artist’s spirit as they dance in a cafe in the town of Bougival, located near Paris. Note that Renoir includes touches like cigarettes, burnt matches, and flowers on the floor to rebuild the cafe’s atmosphere. He also inserts pink on the couple’s cheeks to convey passion and enthusiasm. These paintings were produced after a trip he took to Italy to study the works of classical and old master painters. His work continued to move away from pure Impressionism after his return to France, becoming more restrained and emphasizing the contours of the figures. The dancing couple are Paul Lhote, a friend of Renoir, and Suzanne Valandon, who worked for the artist for many years.
5-Reclining nude (1883) –
The female nude became one of the central themes of Renoir’s work. The artist painted many models lying down, taking a shower, contemplating nature, in addition to a series of other poses. Reclining Nude anticipates Renoir’s move towards a slightly sharper painting, with more delineated bodies. This work makes reference to the great neoclassical Ingres and his Grande Odalisque, in particular, with the woman with her back to the viewer. The 1880s were known as Renoir’s ‘Ingres Period’. The work is part of the collection of the MET (Metropolitan Museum of New York).
6-The Umbrellas (1881 e 1885) –
Renoir worked on this painting in two phases, starting with Impressionism in 1881 and then taking a more classical approach to complete it in 1885. The umbrellas depict pedestrians in Paris holding their titular canopies to protect themselves from the rain. The work alternates between the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and the National Gallery in London.
7-The Large Bathers (1884-1887) –
The Great Bathers took Renoir three years of experimentation and hard work, only for critics to reject his work. This work can be seen as the culmination of his ‘Ingres Period’. A group of naked women play and hop in a rustic landscape with a river flowing by. What strikes the viewer is how the figures are rounded and well defined in relation to the background of the painting. The painting shows the influence of Ingres and Rubens, in an outdoor bathing scene. Note how Renoir’s painting changed from this frame to the others.
8-Two Girls at the Piano (1892) –
Renoir received an invitation from the French Government to provide a new work for a museum of living artists, the Musée de Luxembourg. He painted ‘Two Girls at the Piano’, in five versions in all. The paintings show the influence of 18th century French genre painting on a routine domestic scene. The reddish colors of the hair and the hot pink of the girl’s dress are a clear tribute to the painter Titian, the great master colorist of Venice. The versions of the painting that are part of the collection of the MET (Metropolitan Museum of New York) and the Musée d’Orsay are considered the best.
9-Bathers (1918-1919) –
Renoir continued to work until the last days of his life, despite his failing health. He moved to the Mediterranean coast and returned to painting female nudes in open landscapes. During this period, the women in his painting were plumper than ever, in clear reference to Rubens’ nudes. In ‘Banhistas’, two large women (with small heads) dominate the canvas while others bathe in the background. With this painting, Renoir sets out to include nothing from the modern world, instead portraying an image of timelessness. Renoir’s family donated the painting to the French Government and it is on display at the Musée d’Orsay (Paris).
10- Pink and Blue (1881)
If you think you’ll never get the chance to travel to see a Renoir painting in one of the world’s greatest museums, stay tuned for this tip. One of Renoir’s great masterpieces is part of the MASP Museum collection. The painting Pink and Blue (1881) shows the sisters Alice and Elisabeth, daughters of the Jewish banker Louis Raphael Cahen d’Anvers. The dresses are identical, just changing the color of the ribbon. Five-year-old Alice looks at the viewer as if she is about to burst into tears, while her older sister, six-year-old Elisabeth, looks more confident. The portrait is wonderful, but apparently it was not to the liking of the family, which, in addition to having taken almost a year to pay the artist, placed the work in an area of the house that was used only by the employees. This was a great injustice. The looks, the dresses, the rosy faces and the clasped hands fascinate those who admire the painting.
Renoir was sensational with his artistic repertoire and his philosophical phrases. He used to say: the pain passes, but the beauty stays.
This article was originally published on istoe.com.br by Keka Consiglio