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Pierre-Auguste Renoir
(1841-1919)

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Renoir was born in Limoges, in central France, on February 25, 1841, the sixth of seven children (two of whom died in infancy). His father was a tailor and his mother a dressmaker. 

Guernsey 1974. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Self-Portrait.

They moved to Paris in 1844, and in 1854 Renoir, aged 13, was apprenticed to a porcelain painter. He had already shown a talent for drawing and now he learnt the craft of decorating tableware. 

When the porcelain firm closed in 1858, he found similar decorative work painting fans and blinds. At the same time he attended evening classes in drawing, and through sheer hard work he saved enough money to become a full-time art student. 

  • Guernsey 1974. Self-Portrait. 
  • France 1955.  Portrait of Renoir, engraved from a contemporary photograph.

France 1955. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Portrait.

In 1880, he met Aline Charigot, whom he would marry in 1890, and who gave him three children: Pierre (1885-), Jean (1894 - ), who would become an important film director, and Claude (1901- ), called “Coco”. The two below children paintings, which were one of Renoir's specialties, show his children, reproduced on maximum-cards and franked on the front side with semi-postal stamps, issued for the benefit of French Red Cross. 

France 1965. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Maximum Card "Baby with a Spoon". France 1965. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Maximum Card with "Coco Writing".

Renoir's paintings show vibrant light and color, and harmony of lines. Unlike many impressionists who focused on landscapes, he painted not only landscapes, but people in intimate and candid compositions  sometimes applying paint with a palette knife rather than a brush. Characteristic for the impressionist style, Renoir painted not the details of a scene, but instead his figures softly fused with one another and the surroundings. 
 
Rwanda 1969. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. "Bowl with Peaches". Romania 1974. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. "Landscape".

He first exhibited at the Salon in 1864; after that the jury rejected his works and only in 1867 accepted Lise, portrait of his model and lover Lise Trehot. 

Monaco 1991. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Portrait of Claude Monet.

He spent the summer of 1869 with Monet at Bougival on the Seine; together they worked out the main principles of the Impressionist method. 

It was in the 1870s, that Renoir’s Impressionism style reached its peak. He worked at Argenteuil and in Paris. He participated in the Impressionist exhibitions of 1874, 1876, 1877 and 1882 and was a founding member of the review L’Impressionniste (1877), where he published his article on the principles of contemporary art, including the artistic discovery made by him and Monet about the shadows of an object not being grey/black, but reflecting the colours of the object itselv.

  • Monaco 1991.  Portrait of his close friend Claude Monet, reading a paper (1872). The stamp is engraved by the Swedish engraver Czeslaw Slania

Maldives 1971. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Vase with Anemones. Paraguay 1968. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Vase with Summer Flowers. Maldives 1971. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Vase with Roses and Carnations.

France 1991. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The Swing.

The Swing and the big composition of Le Moulin de la Galette, are among the finest and most smiling of his masterpieces. 

The models for the latter were his friends, mostly artists, and Montmartre girls. 

  • France 1991. "The Swing". 
  • Great Britain 1995. Fragment of "Le Moulin de la Galette". 

Great Britain 1995. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Fragment of the painting "Le Moulin de la Galette".

In the late summer of 1883, Renoir spent a little over a month on Guernsey, staying in St. Peter Port. He painted about 15 pictures on the island, none of them large, and all showing views of the bay and beach of Moulin Huet, at the east end of the island's rocky south coast and within easy walking distance of his lodgings. Guernsey has issued 9 stamps showing paintings executed during this period. 

Guernsey 1983. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. General View of Guernsey. Guernsey 1983. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Marine, Guernsey. Guernsey 1983. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Brouillard à Guernsey.

Renoir's visit to Guernsey came at a turning point in his career, and his paintings from the island vividly illustrate the varied strands in his work at the time: the dealer landscapes showing typical tourist views; the sketches of sea and rocks, seeking to capture a rapid effect; the studies of figures on the beach, potential 'documents' for more ambitious projects. 

Guernsey 1983. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Children on the Sea Shore. Guernsey 1974. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Cradle Rock. Guernsey 1983. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. La Baie du Moulin Huet à travers les Arbres.
USSR 1973. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Girl with a Fan. France 1968. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Portrait of a Model. Monaco 1974. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Theatre Loge.

Burundi 1968. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Graziella.

Renoir achieved recognition earlier than his friends, but in 1880 he broke his right arm and for some time painted with his left hand, as shown on the photograph on this sheetlet, where he holds the palette in his right hand, and paints with the left. 

Note that the painting "Diana" shown on the stamp of the sheetlet is a bad choice for illustrating the artist painting with his left hand. 

This painting was executed already in 1867. It belongs to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. 

  • Manama 1979. "Diana" (1867). 

Manama 1979. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Diana + photograph of Renoir painting with left hand.

Ajman 1972. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Fragment of the painting "The Bathers".

In the 1880s, he abandoned Impressionism for what is often called the “dry style”, and began a search for solid form and stable composition, a search which led him back to the masters of the Renaissance. 

He worked more carefully and meticulously, his colors became cooler and smoother. 

He later returned to hot rich colors and free brushwork of his earlier days to portray nudes in sunlight, a style, which he continued to develop to the end of his life. 

  • Ajman 1972. Fragment of the painting "The Bathers" (1887). 

In 1886, the art dealer Durand-Ruel exhibited 32 of Renoir's paintings in New York, thus opening the American market for Impressionism. The evidence of Renoir’s (and other Impressionists’) success in the USA is a great number of their pictures in American museums. 

In December 1888, Renoir suffered the first attacks of arthritis, which would cripple his hands; in 1898 after a serious attack of the disease his right arm was paralyzed. From now on he painted, overcoming strong pains, strapping a brush to his wrist. In 1919, not long before his death, he finished, in great pain, his large-scale composition "The Great Bathers" (The Nymphs). 

Equatorial Guinea 1973. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The Great Bathers, also known as The Nymphs.

Renoir being one of the leading Impressionists, he is now one of the most popular of all 19th-century painters, for his work communicates with great directness the joy that he took in the pleasures and beauties of life. 

France 2006. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. French Impressionism. "Young Girls at the Piano", created 1892.

He was a very prolific painter who made several thousands of paintings, and the warm sensuality of his work has made him one of the best known and frequently reproduced artists.  

  • France 2006. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. "Young Girls at the Piano", created 1892. Issued in a booklet of 10 self-adhesive stamps dedicated to the Impressionists. The stamp is a so-called NVI (No Value Indicated), and is permanently valid for domestic letters [within France] up to 20 grams. 

Renoir died in Cagnes on 3 December 1919 and was buried in Essoyes, next to his wife Aline. 

Sources and links: 

Other Impressionist painters on this site (in alphabetical order).  

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