Pierre-Auguste Renoir

"Why shouldn\'t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world."

3rd Period

May 5, 2004

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a renowned artist of the late 1800s. He enjoyed his job as an artist, which was unusual at the time. Many of the artists from his time period merely saw art as a duty. Almost sixty years of actively painting gave Renoir six thousand paintings, each one of them unique and special.

Renoir was born in Limoges, France, on February 25, 1841, during the rule of Louis Bonaparte. He was born the sixth of seven children to Leonard Renoir and Marguerite Merlet. The family was middle-class, since his father, was a tailor, which did not bring much wealth to the family. The Renoirs lived in Limoges another four years after he was born. They moved to Paris in 1945 in hopes of more wealth, as Paris was one of the leading world powers in the nineteenth century.

Renoir first became interested in painting at age thirteen, when he was forced to get a job as a porcelain painter to help the family make more money. Although most children would gripe about having to start a career at thirteen, Renoir loved his job. During lunch breaks, rather than eat, Renoir would visit courtyards and paint statues rather than eat. Although he loved it, he lost the job due to the industrial revolution replacing job done by hand with machines that could more efficiently do the work. He continued to paint because he found a job painting ladies’ fans and banners for churches.

Renoir was admitted into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts [The College of Fine Arts] in Paris at age twenty-one. There, he and other students were ordered to copy paintings and make accurate drawings of casts. The college did not support free form art. They saw it as “democratic and objectionable.”

Renoir tended to favor one teacher, Charles Gleyre, above the rest. Gleyre held private lessons at his own studio and outdoors for a few select students. However much Renoir admired Gleyre, things did not start off very smoothly. The two artists had clashing views of art. While Renoir believed in painting beautiful paintings for enjoyment, Gleyre thought art was “a duty and a tribute to the art goddess.”

Renoir made friends with young artists who would one day grow up to be very important. Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille, and none other than Claude Monet became his best friends. Monet shared his stubbornness with Renoir. When a teacher would try to mold Monet’s views, he would simply rebel. The three would gather at art exhibits to see admired artists’ work. Renoir would later live with the other two artists. Although they went through financial problems, they remained happy.

Not all of Renoir’s friends were from college. One crucial friend of his was Narcisse Diaz de la Pena. Diaz was one of the Painters of Barbizon, named so because of the town in which they were born. Diaz was thirty-six years older than Renoir. Being a more experienced painter, Diaz gave Renoir advice on painting. Diaz also gave Renoir financial help, which he greatly needed in those days. Diaz was one of the main factors contributing to Renoir’s education, as he paid his tuition when times were tough.

In 1867, Renoir met a young girl named Lise. Although she was only fourteen, she became his mistress and the two fell in love. She became a model for many of his paintings, including Lise, Diana, Woman of the Algiers, and In the Summer. The couple continued to date until Lise married someone else more appropriate for her age in 1872.

Renoir did not give up on love. He met a woman in 1880 named Aline Charigrot. He married her in 1890, five years after they had their first child, Pierre. They had two other sons, Jean and Claude. In 1914, Jean and Pierre were drafted into the war. They were wounded, but not killed or seriously injured. Jean Renoir became a beloved and famous film director. He wrote a touching biography on his father in 1962 called Renoir, My Father.

In the 1890s Renoir began to suffer from Rheumatism. He moved to Southern France to ease the pain. Eventually he was crippled by the disease, yet he continued to paint