Renoir was born in Limoges in 1841, the son of a tailor and dressmaker. He worked for a spell as a porcelain painter before enrolling in 1862 at the École des Beaux-Arts to study under Emile Signol and Charles Gleyre. Through Gleyre, he met Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley, and joined them in painting en plein air. ‘The open air,’ Renoir explained, ‘leads you to put on the canvas colours you would never imagine in the subdued light of the studio.’
In 1864, the artist had his first submission to the official Salon accepted, and he continued to submit canvases over the next several years. He took part in the Salon des Refusés in 1873 and the first Impressionist exhibition, held in 1874, as well as several of its subsequent iterations.
Like many of his contemporaries, Renoir too painted scenes from the world he inhabited, as seen, for example, in Bal du moulin de la Galette, La Yole and La danse à Bougival. Although, in dappled brushwork, he continued to paint the effects of light and luminosity, over the years, Renoir became less invested in Impressionism and instead developed an idiom that evoked Classical antiquity and the oeuvres of Titian and Peter Paul Rubens. Such inspiration is particularly evident in Renoir’s paintings of nude, odalisque-like figures, whose pink cheeks and fleshy forms seem born of another era.
While often thought of as a painter of the female figure, the still life played a central role in Renoir’s artistic development, and his depictions of elaborate bouquets and bowls of fruit served as a site for experimentation throughout his long career. It was through the genre that Renoir pursued some of his most significant investigations into the effects of colour on light on various surfaces and textures, and works such as Roses dans un vase and Les Fraises attest to this ongoing ambition.
At the close of the 19th century, Renoir and his family travelled more and more in the South of France, spending time in Aix-les-Bains Grasse, and Cagnes, where they would later permanently relocate. Renoir was attracted by the warm weather and famed Mediterranean light, both for their artistic potential and palliative possibilities; for several years he had suffered from arthritis and his mobility had begun to deteriorate further. Ever determined, Renoir continued to work, taking up sculpture and imbuing his paintings with a new sense of monumentality. When he finally lost his ability to use his fingers, he strapped a paintbrush to his hands and continued to paint. Renoir died in 1919 in Cagnes.
Femme lisant dans une clairière (Paysage, petite femme en rose au premier plan)