Renoir's parents, a tailor and a dressmaker, moved their family to Paris in 1844. At age thirteen Renoir apprenticed with the porcelain decorators Levy Frères & Cie. He earned money by painting fans, blinds, and murals for cafés. In 1860 he registered to copy Old Master paintings in the Louvre and, the following year, entered the studio of Charles Gleyre (1806-1874), where he met Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870), Monet (q.v.), and Sisley (q.v.). In 1862 he was also accepted at the École des Beaux-Arts. With his friends from Gleyre's studio, he began working en plein air and, during a visit to the forest of Fontainebleau, was introduced to Diaz de la Peña (q.v.). After a failed attempt in 1863, Renoir's first painting was accepted at the Salon of 1864, the same year he painted Cleveland's portrait of Romaine Lacaux. More typical of this early period, however, is the painting Diana the Huntress (1867, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), which reveals Courbet's (q.v.) influence. Around 1867 Renoir shared a studio with Bazille and Monet, the latter becoming an important influence on his art. Renoir and Monet's comparable impressionist style during this period is evident in two paintings each made at La grenouillère (all four titled La grenouillère, 1869: Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, and Pushkin Museum, Moscow [Renoir]; National Gallery, London, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York [Monet]),1 a bathing establishment on the Seine. After Renoir's military service during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), Monet introduced him to the dealer Durand-Ruel, who began purchasing his works. Renoir's submissions to the Salon were regularly refused, which encouraged him to participate in the first impressionist exhibition in 1874 and the 1875 auction at Hôtel Drouot, where his works were ridiculed by the critics. At the third impressionist exhibition in 1877, he showed Ball at the Moulin de la Galette (1876, Musée d'Orsay, Paris), in which he addressed a subject of modern life, one of his most characteristic impressionist paintings on a grand scale, with a rich pattern of light and shadow. In 1878 he returned to the Salon and became quite successful, establishing his reputation as a portraitist (1878, Mme Charpentier and her Children, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). He continued to use this official venue for the next several years, declining to exhibit with the impressionists. This decision was partly generated by the fact that his newfound clientele would be more appreciative of his participating in the Salon. He was supported by his patrons, particularly the Charpentiers, owners of a publishing house, whose journal La vie moderne furthered Renoir's reputation. After a trip to North Africa and Italy in 1881, he joined Cézanne at L'Estaque. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s Renoir traveled extensively through Brittany, Normandy, Provence, and Spain. In the mid-1880s he began to experiment with more linear contours, the application of thinner paint layers, and smoother brush strokes. This so-called Ingresque period, which had a very mixed reception, lasted for about six years. He then reflected upon the achievements of the Old Masters and favored a more fluid style, after which he returned to using broader brush strokes and more vibrant colors. In 1886 he was given a one-man show by Durand-Ruel. By 1900 Renoir was an established artist: he became Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1900 and four years later was honored at the Salon d'Automne with a gallery devoted to his works. Beginning in 1912 he suffered from rheumatism and began using a wheelchair, yet he continued to work until the end of his life. He now often stayed in southern France, where he owned property in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Renoir regularly exhibited his works at the Durand-Ruel and Bernheim-Jeune galleries in Paris, as well as elsewhere in Europe and in the United States.
French art dealer and publisher, 1867-1939