Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Renowned artist Pierre Auguste Renoir’s warm light-filled works, such as Luncheon at the Boating Party (1881), appear sweetly naïve. However, the apparent naivete of his paintings belie his successful self-motivated passion for depicting natural beauty in all its forms, and the revolutionary impacts of his artistic courage.
Between 1844 and 1846, Renoir’s financially struggling parents, a tailor, and a seamstress, moved the family to Paris near the Musee du Louvre. Thus, circumstance defined his inauspicious beginnings as the 6th child of parents who had already lost two of their children at birth. Due to his family’s continued financial distress, Renoir was apprenticed to the fashionable porcelain manufactory, Levy Freres at the age of 13 and worked there until the factory closed in 1858. Although Renoir found the work of copying designs boring, he gained valuable decorative painting skills. These skills included the controlled wrist movements evident in his later brush work. The vivid palette along with the cobalt blue used for fine porcelain plates appeared in many of his paintings. Wealthy customers of Levy Freres recognized Renoir’s exceptional talent and commissioned him to produce decorative art on their furniture, ceramics, and tapestries. In addition to his expertise in decorative art, Renoir practiced drawing in free classes from sculptor Louis-Denis Caillouette.
In 1860 Renoir frequented the hallowed galleries of the Musee du Louvre to sketch and copy the paintings. Classical artists Francois Boucher and Peter Paul Rubens enthralled him through their rich use of color and mastery of the human form. The goal of becoming a fine artist led Renoir to study under Charles Gleyre. It was at Gleyre’s studio that he met Claude Monet, Frederic Bazille, and Alfred Sisley. In 1869 Renoir and Monet painted at La Grenouillere, a weekend resort on the Seine, where they used short quick brushstrokes to capture the illusive and transient effects of sunlight on water.
Renoir: The Reluctant Dissonant
In 19th century France the Academie de Beaux Arts was the dominant force in determining an artist’s financial success. The Academie valued religious and historical works and formal portraits, but did not accept en plein air landscapes as credible art. Each year the entries for the Paris Salon were juried by the Academie for prominent exhibition. If an exhibited artist did well at the Salon, he (or she) would receive a prestige state commission and could teach at the Academie, thus continuing the closed process of what constituted fine art, and protecting the established classical norms.
In the early 1870s Renoir, Monet and several of their fellow artists put their reputations at stake by forming an independent art society to showcase the fresh new work that was anathema to the Salon establishment. They called their new society, the Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers (Societe Anonyme Cooperative des Artistes Peintres, Scuplteurs, Graveurs). The goal was to circumvent the power of the Academie de Beaux Arts jury and exhibit art independent of the Paris Salon. The Association held its first exhibition from
April 15 – May 15, 1874 in the photographer, Nadar’s former studio at 35 Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, and Edgar Degas headed up the event that presented 200 works by 30 artists. To the critics and the public alike, the contemporary art appeared rough and unfinished, nothing like the polished art of the Paris Salon with its otherworldly religious and mythological themes. The response was not favorable. Louis Leroy, a critic writing for the newspaper Le Charivari, made a humorous yet sarcastic wordplay of Claude Monet’s painting, Impression, soleil levant (Impression Sunrise) calling the work merely an “impression.” Though Leroy’s label was made in jest, both the public and the artists themselves came to accept the term, and the group would forever be known as Impressionists and their movement Impressionism.
The Impressionists held a total of 8 exhibits between 1874 and 1886. Although many of the artists received little financial benefit from the exhibitions, the public began to accept their work. Unlike some of his fellow exhibitors, Renoir made a lucrative income from his talents in portraiture. Following the first exhibit, he caught the attention of the wealthy collector, Victor Chocquet and went on to paint Chocquet’s portrait. Other portraits and commissions followed resulting in Renoir’s achievement of international success as well as his goal of financial Independence.
Renoir’s Contribution to Modern Art
Unlike his friend Monet whose primary focus remained in capturing the immediacy of flickering light over water, Renoir, with his more contemplative focus on the human form, believed that Impressionism had value, but lacked the structure and staying power of the Renaissance masters. He had initially criticized those painters who traveled to Rome at the direction of the Academie de Beaux Arts to learn Raphael’s classical painting techniques, yet when he finally visited Rome in 1881, Raphael’s frescoes impressed him. He wished he had seen them sooner. In lieu of his goal of returning to a more planned and structured painting process, Renoir began to distance himself from the Association and quietly chose not to participate in the 4th Impressionist exhibition. As expected, this caused a rift with his fellow artists. Although Renoir’s work with Monet was tantamount to the development and credibility of the emerging Impressionist movement, he would return to the use of classical composition and structure in his work while retaining the short brush stroke technique in combination with his unique decorative palette. He remained in agreement with his fellow Impressionists that art should depict reality.
Renoir is quoted as saying, “art should be cheerful, pleasant, and pretty.” He created visually peaceful works that added light and beauty to a world that was often darker than the world he portrayed. Renoir did not have the heart of an insurgent and yet, Impressionism, the movement he and his peers created, was the first movement of modern art.
Collectors who wish to acquire pieces by this warm, world-renowned artist can look at some of the Dania Beach, FL auction houses, where the staff is more than pleased to assist with a search.
Selling the Works by Pierre August Renoir
Do you have works by Renoir that you are interested in selling, appraising, or cosigning? Call Joshua Kodner today, and ensure you receive the true value of your property.