Renoir, Pierre Auguste (1841-1919) - 1876 Self Portrait at Age 35
Renoir was born in Limoges France. When he was four years old, the family moved to Paris. The Renoirs lived near the Louvre, which then was partly a royal palace and partly the museum we know today. The Louvre was the first encounter of the young Renoir with art. At the age of only thirteen he started an apprenticeship at a workshop painting decorations on porcelain. During these years Renoir learned about colors and drawing. He became a skilled craftsman at the porcelain factory. Unfortunately the company went bankrupt and left the young Renoir rethinking about his future.
At the age of twenty, Renoir joined the classical painting school of a Swiss artist in Paris. There he learned how to paint in the style of the old masters. The art scene at that time was rather stiff and dominated by what we would call today The Establishment. Dark colors and photo-realistic artwork was dominant. The Salon, an annual exhibition event, exercised a kind of factual censorship. Artwork that was refused by the Salon had no chance to find a buyer on the market.
Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille and Renoir began to revolt against the traditional art style. They started painting outdoors, which itself was considered to be quite revolutionary. The first Impressionist paintings were created in the forest of Fontainebleau and a nearby lake. The four friends wanted to catch the impression of the moment and to show the effects of light. The Impressionists used quick brush strokes and bright colors. In the eyes of their critics these paintings looked unfinished and sloppily made. It was clear that the Impressionist works would be refused by the Salon. So the Impressionists established their own "Salon des Refuses". This exhibition had no judges. Every artist who paid a small fee, was allowed to show his art works.
When Renoir grew older, his style changed again. It become softer and the outlines more sketchy. He used very strong colors - often reds and oranges - and thick brush strokes. His favorite subjects were young, buxom, nude girls. Stricken with severe arthritis, he was hardly able to hold the brush any more. So he had the brush tied to his wrists. The change in style that lasted from about 1903 to the end of his life, was certainly imposed by his disease.