Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), French Impressionist Painter.
One of five children of a poor tailor, Renoir went to work at age thirteen in Paris as a decorator of commercial porcelains, coping the pictures of the rococo painter Boucher. He scrimped and saved to attend the famous Ecole des Beaux-arts in Paris in 1862. His early years were marked by poverty, despite occasional successes at getting his paintings into the official Salon. In the 1870s he began to get portrait commissions, which helped him make a living. For the first twenty years of his career, his output consisted of portraits and the occasional big figure painting for the Salon. Meanwhile, Renoir was doing his bit to help invent Impressionism.
Renoir’s ability to depict happy times with shimmering color and flickering light is unparalleled. He is famous for his pictures of balls and luncheons and people strolling around Paris. His garden pictures are a lush profusion of flowers and tangled foliage. His landscapes are dazzling displays of the riches of nature. By 1883 or so, his stuff had caught on and he could make a living. So he had a kind of mid-life artistic crisis and decided to change his work all around and start over form scratch.
Those voluptuous nudes in opalescent colors, set in lush summer landscapes that Renoir is so famous for represent a new direction in his painting. Renoir decided he wanted to become a classicist, devoted to the female nude. Renoir strives to replace his free, sketchy technique with one consisting of distinct contours and firmness for form. Ingres suddenly becomes his hero. His figures get monumental, even though today they look a little too much like Boehm porcelain figures.