Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French Impressionist artist who was born in 1841 and died in 1919. He combined the traditions of outdoor scenes of pleasure as depicted by the likes of Watteau and the Classical nude with the progressive aesthetic of Impressionism. We will now take you through 18 of his most famous paintings, and as you go, you will get to learn more about this fascinating artist.
1. Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, 1876
The most famous of Renoir's works was painted in 1876 and is widely considered to be a masterpiece of Impressionism. Held at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, this painting was displayed at the first Impressionist exhibition ever held. It depicts a Sunday afternoon at the Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre, which was frequently descended upon by many Parisian revelers. The painting gives a sense of the vigor of Parisian life, with couples dancing and girls and boys chatting in the foreground.
2. The Swing, 1876
Painted as a companion piece to the Moulin de la Galetta, this painting is also housed in the Parisian Musee d'Orsay. It depicts a single scene rather than a panorama of revelers. A man appears to be propositioning a young lady on a swing, as a child looks on, and another man peers at them from the background. Interestingly, the people depicted in this painting were either related to Renoir, or to the individuals depicted in the painting itself, making it one of the most interesting Renoir paintings of all.
3. Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881
When the time came for the fourth Impressionist exhibition to be held in 1878, Renoir refused to participate. This is because he began to draw inspiration from Classical sources, and as a result, his figures became more defined, and his work, in general, became more structured. This painting is one of Renoir's earliest works to reflect these changes. It depicts diners at the Maison Fournaise, a restaurant on an island in the Seine that was popular with artists. In the painting, you can see collector Charles Ephrussi, painter Gustave Caillebotte, poet Jules Laforgue, and Renoir’s future wife Aline Charigot. It is now part of the Phillips Collection in Washington DC.
4. Two Sisters, 1881
Although Renoir named this painting Two Sisters, it's also known as On the Terrace, and this is because its first owner decided to refer to it that way. Collector Charles Ephrussi also owned the painting, but it was sold to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1833, where it has been ever since. This work is also reflective of Renoir's move toward more precisely-rendered and solid figures. The two girls that can be seen in the painting are sitting with the Seine behind them.
During his travels in Italy in 1881, Renoir studied the works of old masters and Classical painters. This led him to turn away from Impressionism on his return, becoming more restrained in his style and emphasizing figure outlines. Bourgival was a Parisian suburb that was synonymous with relaxation and dancing. The models in the center of this painting are Renoir's friend Paul Lhote, and Suzanne Valandon, who actually worked for the painter for many years. The painting, which now hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, was one of three paintings featuring a pair of dancers painted for Paul Duran-Ruel in 1883.
6. Reclining Nude, 1883
Nudes became a central subject in Renoir's later works. This painting is notable for its crisp, clear depiction of the nude body combined with the indistinct Impressionist landscape in the background. It serves as clear evidence for the Classical and Renaissance movements that have influenced his work. Renoir's work in the 1880s is known as his "Ingres Period", due to his frequent references to the great neo-classicist, Ingres. Reclining Nude is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
7. The Large Bathers, 1884-1887
The culmination of Renoir's Ingres Period can be seen in this painting, which took three years of hard work and experimentation to complete. Sadly, critics were quick to dismiss his work. Particularly striking are the well-rounded figures, and their definition against the obscure background provides a high level of contrast. There are elements of Ingres, Rubens, and Watteau in the painting, which represents an amalgamation of different styles and influences.
8. Two Young Girls at the Piano, 1892
In 1891, the French government invited Renoir to provide new work for a museum of living artists - the Musee de Luxembourg. He painted the work shown above, creating no less than five different versions of it in all. It features heavy influences from 18th-Century genre painting, and this is evidenced by its focus on a simple domestic scene, as well as the russet colors of the girls' hair and warm pink of one of their dresses. The two finest versions of the painting are held in the Museum of Art in New York, and the Musee d'Orsay.
9. Bathers, 1918-1919
Renoir experienced poor health in the latter part of his life, but that didn't stop him from working. He moved to the Mediterranean coast and took up painting female nudes once again. This particular painting is dominated by two nudes in the center, with more nude bathers off in the background. Renoir wanted to include nothing of the modern world in this work, and it is, in fact, a timeless painting. The artist gifted it to the French state in 1923.
10. The Umbrellas, 1881-1886
Here you can observe a typical Parisian street during a downpour. It is famous mostly because it shows off Renoir's artistic talent during two different points in his career. He first began working on it in 1881 using vibrant shades and quick brushstrokes, which are typically used by Impressionist artists. After a while, he stopped painting it, yet he then returned to it once again in 1885. This time though, Renoir decided to finish it off in a more classical and linear way.
11. La Parisienne, 1874
Originally scorned by art critics, this brilliant work of art is now considered to be one of Renoir's most acclaimed paintings ever. The model in the painting is a famous actress from the Odéon theatre, called Henriette Henriot. It can be found at the National Museum of Wales and is by far one of the most popular works of art there.
12. Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children, 1878
Georges Charpentier was a rich publisher and art lover, which is why he commissioned Renoir to paint a picture of his wife and children (and family dog) to be displayed at the Salon in an 1879 exhibition. This commission turned out to be a breakthrough work for Renoir since it ended up bringing him a lot of publicity, attention, and critical praise.
13. The Theater Box, 1874
This quirky Impressionist painting depicts a young and wealthy couple sitting in a theater's best seats. While it may seem simple at first, this painting contains multiple layers of mystery that seem to tell tales of their own. Critics believe that the man may be using his binoculars to get a closer look at a woman he admires, while the woman has lowered her opera glasses to reveal herself to any potential admirers.
14. Diana the Huntress, 1867
One of Renoir's earlier works, here we can see a depiction of the Roman goddess Diana being portrayed by Lise Tréhot, Renoir's mistress who tastefully modeled for this painting. This matter-of-fact nude depiction recalls a love of Realism, yet it also manages to achieve a timeless Classical feel that is often lacking in works of Realism.
15. La Grenouillère, 1869
La Grenouillère, which means 'The Frog Pond' in English, was a highly popular outdoor pool and bar, which was often frequented by wealthy middle-class civilians. Both Renoir and Claude Monet decided to paint this scene from an identical angle at the start of their careers in the hope that they could eventually sell it to one of the wealthy bathers. Monet's version focused on the vivid effects of light and water, while Renoir chose to place more emphasis on fashionable human subjects instead.
16. Gabrielle Renard and Infant Son Jean, 1895-1896
This softly impressionistic work of art shows Renoir's own infant child, Jean, playing with his nanny, Gabrielle. Renoir's son, who would eventually go on to become the famous movie director, Jean Renoir, can be seen being entertained with a cute stuffed animal in this painting, and this is one of the few personal aspects that can be found through Renoir's work.
17. Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1908
A close friend and supporter of Renoir's work, Ambroise Vollard ended up being painted numerous times throughout Renoir's artistic career. This work shows off Renoir's outstanding abilities as a portraitist, while also making Vollard seem like an admirer of beauty and a smart art connoisseur, due to the classically-inspired nude sculpture that he is holding.
18. By the Seashore, 1883
At some point between 1881 and 1882, Renoir went on a trip to Italy, where he became absolutely fascinated with Renaissance art. This experience inspired him so much that he then started to shift his style of painting from Impressionism to a brand new style of his own. The woman in the painting is Aline Charigot, his girlfriend at the time, who would later go on to become his wife. The difference in style between what is in the foreground and background is truly remarkable, which is what makes it one of his most famous Renoir paintings ever!
BONUS: Learn More About Renoir's Life & Art Here:
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