Self Portrait Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on this day in 1841. One of six children, he would eventually become one of the greatest artists of the early twentieth century. His father and mother were a tailor and seamstress. When Pierre was only three years old, the family moved to Paris from Limoges, France near the Louvre Art Museum.
He showed artistic tendencies when very young and was encouraged by his parents to continue along those lines. When a teen ager, he got a job as an apprentice to a porcelain painter. He started by painting floral patterns on porcelain plates. During this time he also engaged in free art classes offered at a city sponsored art school. He, like most artists, found it difficult to make a living at his art, but his passion was never deterred.
After serving in the military he returned to Paris in 1871 and began painting with friends, Edgar Degas, Monet, Cezanne and Pissarro who were experimenting with a new type of painting called impressionism. They painted outdoors, using a colorful pallet and many brush strokes. At their first exhibit, they were criticized for showing unfinished paintings. Part of impressionism is to leave some areas muted or softened for the imagination of the viewer. Light is extremely important as well.
With the support of wealthy patrons, he was able to present another exhibition. In the meantime, he made his living doing portrait painting.
As the wife of an artist, I can tell you a little about the art of painting outdoors. You have much more to contend with than a canvas, light, shadows, paint. You are also working with or against the elements – rain, snow, heat, bright sun. All this effects the way the painting will turn out. I can also attest to the fact that it is very addicting to go into nature to capture the beauty of it. Once in the field, you feel an obligation to capture light – to paint fast before it changes – to use plenty of brush strokes and to take advantage of every second, because the light will quickly change.
Impressionism became popular in the early 1900s and continues to be appreciated to this day. Renoir was one of those rare artists who actually made a pretty good living as an artist. As he aged, however, he struggled with rheumatism, which remained with him until his death. He continued to paint until his dying day.
Today, art is easily accessible to the average man on the street. It can be electronically produced to look like an original piece. It can be mass produced and placed in many living rooms around the world. It would seem there might not even be a need for original art anymore, but I believe that we still need artists. They not only fill our lives with beauty, they challenge our creativity as well. With the Impressionist Movement, we are led into a painting through the light and shadows. We have a destination to reach. We become enraptured by the work and create our own stories through it. Art is really about giving and receiving.
I hope we never lose sight of the amazing artists who set the world on fire with their work and I pray that we continue to appreciate the wonderful talent they are willing to share with the world.
Luncheon of the Boating Party – Renoir