Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1841-1919

Pierre-Auguste Renoir is a famous French painter whose paintings are probably the most popular, well-known, and frequently reproduced images in the history of art. Almost everybody has heard of "Bathers", "The Umbrellas", "Luncheon of the Boating Party" and many others. They present a vision of a forgotten world, full of sparkling color and light. He once said: "Why shouldnŐt art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world."

Born at Limoges on February 25, 1841, Renoir died at Cagnes-sur-Mer on December 17, 1919. When he was 13, Renoir entered a Paris porcelain painter's workshop as an apprentice. At 21 he attended courses at the Ecole des Beauz-Arts and subsequently at Glyre's. He made friends with Cezanne, Pissarro, Sisley, Monet, Bazille and Diaz. In 1873 Durand Ruel, Caillebotte and Duret took an interest in his work. The Society of Painters, Engravers and Sculptors was founded in 1874, that saw the birth of Impressionism. There Renoir met all his friends. He did not take up engraving until he was 50 years old, first with two small soft-ground etchings after his painting "The Rustic Ball", followed by an etching of a Venus for the frontispiece of Mallarme's Pages. Most of his engravings were done after his own pictures. In 1892 he did his first lithograph, a portrait of his son Pierre. In 1894 he met Ambroise Vollard who played an important part in the production of Renoir's and Cezanne's color prints. Both artists were so preoccupied with painting that far too often they drew the designs for their lithographs on transfer paper and merely watercolored the first proof to show the printer the shades they wanted. Renoir was more interested in lithography than in engraving on copper. Vollard encouraged him to keep it up. The result was The Pinned Hat; Twelve Lithographs; Mlle Dieterle; portraits of Cezanne, Wagner and Rodin; and likenesses of his sons Jean and Claude. About 1912, Renoir's rheumatism became aggravated to the point where he was forced to forego engraving and had to tie a brush to his hand so that he could paint right up to the day of his death.