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Pierre Auguste Renoir

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Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in France on February 25, 1841, the sixth of seven children. His father was a tailor and his mother was a dressmaker. Because he showed a remarkable talent for drawing, Renoir became an apprentice (one who works for someone in order to learn his or her trade) in a porcelain factory at the age of 13 where he painted plates.

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At 17, after the factory had gone out of business, he worked for his older brother decorating fans, lampshades, and blinds. Throughout these early years, Renoir made frequent visits to the Louvre (a famous art museum located in Paris), where he studied the art of French masters.

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In 1862, Renoir decided to study painting seriously and he studied under a painter with three other student artists including Claude Monet. The practice of the time was that a painting - even a landscape - had to be completed in the studio. In 1864, however, the students devoted themselves to painting directly from nature such as in Still Life (1864).

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The new art displayed bright light and color instead of the solemn browns and blacks of previous paintings exampled by Jules Le Coeur Walking His Dogs in the Forest (1966). These qualities, among others, signaled the beginning of impressionist art. Impressionism is a style of painting that concentrates on the general effect produced by a subject, without elaboration of details.

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The 1860s were difficult years for Renoir. At times he was too poor to buy paints or canvas, and the Salon (exhibitions) of 1866 and 1867 rejected his works. The following year the Salon accepted his painting Portrait of Lise(1867), a portrait of his girlfriend. He continued to develop his work and to study the paintings of other artists of the day.

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In 1869 Renoir and Monet became interested in painting light and wateras in The Bathing Place (1869). This was a key moment in the development of impressionism, for it was then that Renoir and Monet made their discovery that shadows are not brown or black but are colored by their surroundings, and that the color of an object changes with the light in which it is seen, by reflections from other objects and by contrast with nearby colors.

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Renoir trained horses during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871). In 1871, while he painted on the banks of the Seine River, Renoir was arrested as a government spy. His life was spared when one of the leaders recognized Renoir as the man who had protected him on an earlier occasion.This painting, Captain Edouard Bernier (1871), was done at this time.

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By using small, multi-colored strokes, Renoir captured the sparkling effect of foliage and especially the glow of a young woman's skin in the outdoorsas seen in Girl Gathering Flowers (1872). Renoir and his companions attempted to produce light-filled paintings from which black was excluded; however, their paintings, so were frequently rejected by the judges of the Salon and were extremely difficult to sell.

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Renoir, because of his fascination with the human figure, was distinctive among the others, who were more interested in landscapes. He was introduced to upper-middle-class society and obtained several orders for portraits, most notably of women and childrenas seen in Camille Monet Reading (1872).

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During the 1870s, Renoir and Monet continued to work together at times, although their styles generally developed in separate directions. In 1874, Renoir participated in the first impressionist exhibition; his works included The Box at the Theatre (1874). Of all the impressionists, Renoir most successfully adapted this new style to the great tradition of figure painting.

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Although the impressionist exhibitions were the targets of much public ridicule during the 1870s, Renoir's popularity gradually increased during this time. In the 1870s, Renoir also produced some of his most famous impressionist scenes, including The Swing (1876).

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During the 1880s, Renoir began to separate himself from the impressionists. In paintings like The Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881), he felt that his style was becoming too loose and that forms were becoming less distinct. As a result, he looked to the past for a fresh inspiration.

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During the next six years Renoir's paintings became increasingly dry. He began to draw in a classical manner, carefully outlining his figures in an effort to give them increased clarity. The works from this period, such as The Umbrellas (1883), are generally considered the least successful of Renoir's later works.

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By the end of the 1880s, Renoir had passed through his dry period. His late work is truly remarkable. An example of this style includes Young Girl Reading (1892). In many ways, these paintings expands on the achievements of his great work in the 1870s.

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In 1890, he was married to AlineCharigotand together they had three sons. The exposition that was organized for him in 1892 was a great success and his financial situation was significantly improved. One of the featured paintings was Girls at the Piano (1892). Renoir's future now looked bright and his work of that period reflected his new security and also his confidence in the future.

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Renoir's health declined severely in his later years. In 1903, he suffered his first attack of arthritis. The arthritis made painting painful and often impossible. Still, he continued to work. He moved to southern France, where the climate was better for his health.Terrace in Cagnes(1905) was painted there.

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In spite of his misfortune, Renoir's paintings during this period still provided a cheerful attitude toward life. His themes became more personal and intimate, focusing on portraits of his wife, his children, and his maid. His still life paintings were composed of flowers and fruits from his own garden, and the landscapes were those that surrounded him. An example of this period is Vines at Cagnes(1908).

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Renoir's wife died in 1915 shortly after going to see their son Jean, who had been seriously wounded in the war. Renoir survived his wife by four years dying on December 3, 1919. Several months before his death, he was able to go to Paris to see his Portrait of Mme Georges Charpentier (1876–77), which was on display in the Louvre museum. At that time, several friends wheeled him, for the last time, through the Louvre museum to view the masterpieces that he had appreciated throughout his life.

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Pierre-AugusteRenoir created several thousand paintings over a 60-year career. One of the most famous of all impressionist works is Renoir's Dance at the Moulin de la Galette(1876), an open-air scene of a café, in which his mastery in figure painting, and in representing light, is evident. On May 17, 1990, the painting sold at auction for $78 million, making it one of the most valuable paintings in the world.