Pierre-Auguste Renoir Biography

Often considered the most exuberant and sensuous of the Impressionists, Pierre-Auguste Renoir came from a family of working-class artisans. Renoir was the only one among his peers who could not rely on financial help from his family to start a career as an artist. Renoir's father was a tailor, and Renoir's mother a seamstress. The family moved from Limoges to Paris in 1845 to try to make more money.

According to Pierre-Auguste's younger brother Edmond:

"We lived on the rue d'Argenteuil, in a flat scarcely large enough to hold all seven of us. Most happily, an additional room of sloping ceilings on the sixth floor of the house devolved upon my brother and me. In our little garret we were masters and we profited by it, arguing until late into the night without our father interfering as before, to make us be quiet and to put out our little lamp.

We were dying with desire to instruct ourselves; evening courses on all subjects, including drawing, did not satisfy us, and endless reading was added in our little attic. Lying in bed, we devoured old volumes part of the night, questioning each other, book in hand, without stop.

The flair of Auguste for drawing manifested itself at an early age. As a child, he stole colored crayons from our father who was then established as a tailor, rue de la Bibliothèque, near the Palais Royale. Later, at school, he enlivened his copybooks with marginal sketches. The teacher, instead of reprimanding him, begged our parents not to oppose the lad, and added, 'All that I ask is that you give me the copybook when it is filled.'"

All the children in the Renoir family had to work from an early age. Renoir was self-conscious about his background. As late as his 30s, after worldly success and maturity, Renoir referred to himself as "a workman among painters."

When Renoir was thirteen years old, his father got Pierre-Auguste an apprenticeship at the Lévy Brothers porcelain factory on rue Vielle du Temple. Renoir copied in miniature designs by François Boucher on porcelain plates, then was promoted to painting religious scenes on cloth panels, which hung in churches. As an apprentice, Renoir also decoratively painted blinds and fans. The blinds were used instead of stained-glass windows in churches in Latin America. Pierre-Auguste Renoir told Julius Meier-Graefe (author of the biography Auguste Renoir, Paris, 1912) that he received thirty francs per blind.

Renoir's talent at copying in miniature after eighteenth century Rococo masters was evident to all. According to Pierre-Auguste's brother Edmond,

"He [Pierre-Auguste] progressed rapidly and after several months they already entrusted to the young apprentice some pieces ordinarily reserved for experienced workmen, which gave rise to some teasing; they called him in jest 'Monsieur Rubens,' and he wept because they made fun of him. It must be understood that porcelain of that period was not at all what it is today when the same subject is repeated on every piece of a service. The work was done entirely by hand, piece-by-piece, was ornamented with different subjects, often most complicated. When Auguste completed his first dessert service decorated with reproductions of paintings in the Louvre, the patron was so enchanted that he permitted him to take a plate."

Later, Renoir reflected on the impact of Watteau and Boucher on his work, saying "I am of the eighteenth century."


In the Woods, 1880. Oil on Canvas, 55.8 x 46.3 cm. National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo.

Renoir saved his money from his first jobs for tuition to study art formally. On April 1, 1862, Renoir signed up for night classes at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. According to his brother Edmond, Pierre-Auguste also at that time "entered the studio of [Charles] Gleyre, studied anatomy, passed the concours of perspective, sketching, etc. He won success upon success at the different examinations.

From the first days, he fell in with [Henri] Fantin-Latour whose studio was two steps away, rue Visconti. Fantin took him off to work with him when he came from the École, lavishing the best advice upon him and repeating without end: 'The Louvre! The Louvre! There is only the Louvre! You can never copy the masters enough!' And Fantin carried him away to the Louvre where he continued his lesson, by insisting upon the choice among the masterpieces."

Marc Gabriel Charles Gleyre (1808-1874), a well-regarded academic painter of portraits and genre scenes, was born in Switzerland. Gleyre was a fervent advocate of painting out of doors (plein air). At Gleyre's studio Pierre-Auguste Renoir met middle and upper-middle class artists such as Jean Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley, and Oscar-Claude Monet who would remain his friends for life. Bazille, who was also a financial supporter of Renoir, wrote to his family about how Gleyre's studio was conducted: "M. Gleyre comes twice a week and passes every student in review, correcting each drawing or painting. Then from time to time he gives a little subject of composition on which each does his best." Gleyre was not a lecturer, but he was an enthusiastic teacher. He worried that his students would be carried away with an abundance of color over proper drawing techniques. Pierre-Auguste Renoir said that Gleyre left students "pretty much to their own devices." Gleyre's studio went bankrupt and closed in 1864.

The first well-regarded paintings by Renoir date from the late 1860s At the Inn of Mother Anthony (1866, National Museum of Sweden) Spring Bouquet (1866, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA), The Painter Bazille in His Studio (1867, Musee d'Orsay, Paris), Pont des Arts (1867, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA), Alfred Sisley and His Wife (1868, Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany), Portrait of Lise (1867, Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany).


Bouquet of Crysanthemums, 1884. Oil on Canvas, 81 x 65 cm. Musée de Rouen.

Perhaps his two most famous works from this period are his nude version of the goddess Diana (1867, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) and La Grenouillère (1869, National Museum of Sweden). Diana was refused by the official Paris Salon in 1867.

Renoir had better luck with his submission to the official Paris Salon a few years after submitting his nude Diana with a clothe Woman of Algiers: Odalisque (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), which was accepted for the 1870 Salon. The sitter, Lise Tréhot, was a favorite of Renoir and Bazille. Woman of Algiers was influenced by Delacroix' Women of Algiers in their Harem (1834, Louvre, Paris), which was well known in Renoir's time. It is similar to Henri Regnault's Salomé also shown in the 1870 Salon.

Renoir often visits La Grenouillere (Frog Pond) with Claude Monet. It was a place for swimming with restaurants on the small islands in Seine. In 1869, when Renoir painted La Grenouillere, he and Monet often painted side by side. Monet painted his own versions of the scene, the best regarded of which is currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There are six versions altogether, three by each artist.

In Renoir's version at the Stockholm museum, the light is evenly distributed. Unlike other Impressionist paintings of group scenes, representations of people are given equal weight with those of the landscape. The Stockholm Renoir La Grenouille was exhibited in 1877 at the Third Impressionist Exhibition; in 1883 at Durand-Ruel Gallery, Paris; in 1892 at Durand-Ruel Gallery, Paris; in 1917, Barcelona, French Art. It was anonymously donated to the National Museum of Sweden in 1924.

During the 1870s, there was a noticeable change in Renoir's technique. At first the influence of Manet is quite apparent, in composition as well as the precise handling of the brush (for instance, in Bather with a Griffon, 1870, São Paulo Museu de Arte). Color is used more fluidly, and there are more yellows, browns, and reds. Poses are more natural and spontaneous (for example, La Nymphe à la Source, 1872, National Gallery of Art, London).


La Grenouillère, 1869. Oil on Canvas, 81 x 66 cm. National Museum of Sweden.


Parisians in Algerian Costume or Harem, 1872. Oil on Canvas. National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo.

Both Pierre-Auguste and his brother Edmond were drafted for the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), though neither saw any action. Renoir's friend and financial supporter, the artist Frédéric Bazille, died in battle in 1870. In late 1871, Renoir moved back to Paris, to the then up-and-coming 9th arrondissement. On the Paris Communards, who governed the city from March 18 – May 28, 1871, Pierre-Auguste Renoir said, "They were madmen, but they had in them that little flame, which is not to be snuffed out."

In 1872, when Pierre-Auguste Renoir decided to paint Pont Neuf in Paris, his brother Edmond helped him by detaining passers-by with questions so Pierre-Auguste could quickly sketch them. Pierre-Auguste and Edmond took a room on the second floor of a café near Pont Neuf. The painting Pont Neuf (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) was sold at an auction in 1875 in Paris. The auction was at Hôtel Drouot, which took a chance by auctioning the then unfashionable works of Renoir, Morisot, and Sisley. Pierre-Auguste wrote to his art dealer Ambroise Vollard: "After it was over, the expenses had not even been covered; we actually owed money to the auctioneers! A certain Monsieur Hazard had had the courage to bid one of my pictures, a Pont Neuf, up to 300 francs. But nobody followed his example."

Renoir was always profoundly interested in painting people in landscapes or cityscapes rather than just landscapes or cityscapes. Renoir said: "Out of doors, one uses colors that one would never think of in weaker light."


The Parisian Girl, 1874. Oil on Canvas, 163.2 x 108.3 cm. National Museum Wales.

But landscape painting is a thankless job. You waste half the day for the sake of one hour's painting. You only finish one picture out of ten because the weather keeps changing."

Through Sisley and his other classmates Renoir met architect Charles Le Coeur (brother of painter Jules Le Coeur, 1832-1882). He painted Le Coeur's portrait in 1874. In 1879, Le Coeur gave Renoir commissions to decorate a ceiling at the French mansion of Romanian Prince George Valentin Bibescu (1880-1941). At about this time, Renoir painted decorative panels in the homes of Georges Charpentier, Paul Bérard, and Dr Émile Blanche, as well as several other homes in the Le Puy area. Renoir also got a commission to paint decorations for a circus in about 1879 through Le Coeur.

In the 1870s, Renoir no longer used umber, sienna or black in his paintings. Renoir's preference was to limit himself to eight colors in each painting. During this period, he used colors nearly unmixed. Renoir's brushstrokes became more exact during this period; delicate facial features are built up using wet-over-dry colors.

Like the other Impressionist painters of this time, Renoir was thoroughly familiar with Michel Eugène Chevreul's (1786-1889) text on color theory The Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Color (1839). Chevreul was in charge of dyeing cloth at the Gobelins tapestry factory. Chevreul demonstrated that the viewer would perceive a color as brighter if surrounded by contrasting colors; he developed the theory of putting dark next to light colors in order to show forms.

Renoir by the mid-1870s was a regular at the literary salon of Madame Charpentier, where he met author Émile Zola and many other luminaries, including Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927, Impressionist painter), Georges Rivière (writer and founder of the journal L'Impressioniste), and Dr Paul Gachet (1828-1909), a renowned collector of and physician to Vincent van Gogh. Dr Gachet treated Renoir for pneumonia in 1882. Madame Charpentier's husband, Georges Charpentier (1846-1905), was a prominent publisher. He published Zola, Flaubert, and Goncourt. Charpentier was also a well-known collector of Impressionist paintings. Renoir started to achieve financial success with his portraits in the 1870s. Noteworthy among these early portraits is Madame Charpentier and her Children (1878, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).


Madame Georges Charpentier and her Children, 1878. Oil on Canvas, 153.7 x 190.2 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Critics, including Renoir's younger brother Edmond (1849-1943), noted that in the mid and late 1870s, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was "mastering the skill of painting shimmering color and flickering light in outdoor scenes," for example, in The Swing (1876, Louvre). Renoir started using smaller brushes in the mid to late 1870s. Renoir himself commented about his painting at this time: "The earth as the paradise of the gods, that is what I want to paint."

Throughout the 1870s, Renoir prepared his own canvases, often priming them himself and using non-standard sizes.

Many consider the mid to late 1870s to be Renoir's heyday, with Le Moulin de la Galette (1876, Louvre) being the pinnacle of Renoir's ability. When first exhibited, it was recognized by some critics as a masterpiece. For instance, Gustove Geofroy, Le Journal, 16 February 1887 said, "The admirable Moulin de la Galette is perhaps the artist's masterpiece.

I do not understand those who have maligned this lovely canvas as a mass of horrors. I see in it the poetry of Paris, the charm of the quarter, the enchanting faces of young girls elated for the moment by the promise of life, with all the determination of young people who are naïve, in love, and dancing in the sun. The man who gave life to this scene is a great painter and a great poet."

Critics particularly noted Renoir's successful handling of the effects of light and reflected light in Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette, as well as Renoir's skill in depicting spontaneous movement.

In 1878, Renoir spurned the Impressionist Salon in favor of the official Paris Salon. Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisley, and Paul Cézanne also rejected the 1879 Impressionist Salon. Renoir's portraits of popular women: the famous Madame Charpentier as well as the well-known young actress Jeanne Samary (1878, Hermitage, St. Petersburg) were accepted by the official 1879 Paris Salon. This was a seminal success for Renoir as a prestigious, profitable artist. Renoir had many commissions for portraits among the wealthy and famous in the late 1870s, and of course, he was obliged to paint portraits his patrons desired. There is more detail in the features, clothing, hands, hairstyles than previously. The brushstrokes remain very light and fluid, and the quality of the light is shimmering. But in these portraits Renoir returned to the more traditional pyramidal structure of composition. Renoir retained the informal setting favored by Impressionists, as opposed to the highly formal background used for portraits by the Old Masters.

Georges Charpentier bought the portrait of his wife and two daughters from Renoir for 1,000 francs in 1878. It was exhibited at the 1878 Paris Salon; 1886, Les XX, La Troisième exposition annuelle, Brussels; 1892, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Paris; 1900, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris; 1901, Petit-Palais, Exposition d'enfance, Paris; 1904, la Libre Esthétique, Brussels. In 1907, it was bought from Durand-Ruel by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 84,000 francs.

In 1880, Renoir began the monumental Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881, Phillips Collection, Washington, DC). At the official Paris Salon of 1880 Renoir showed Women Fishing for Mussels at Berneval, on the Coast of Normandy (1879, Barnes Collection, Merion, PA) and Young Girl Asleep (1880, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA).


On the Terrace of a Hotel in Bordighera: The Painter Jean Martin Reviews his Bill, 1881. Pen and Ink on Paper, 45.2 x 35.4 cm. Art Institute of Chicago.

Durand-Ruel had started as a canvas and art supply dealer in Paris. The company would take works of art in lieu of cash and developed a large collection of Impressionist paintings. When Paul Durand-Ruel took over the company in the 1870s, he wanted to abandon the art supply business in favor of pure art dealing. He obtained a large loan from Union Générale bank in 1880. Nearly all the Impressionist painters immediately benefited from this.

Renoir, who felt his painting was in the doldrums, was given money to travel by Durand-Ruel. Not only was Renoir bored with his commissions, but he was quite eager to improve his draftsmanship and command of the human figure. In his letters, he regrets leaving formal art education prematurely and hopes to remedy the gaps in his knowledge by exposing himself to the classics in Italy.

Here is a list of Renoir's recorded travels in the early 1880s:

March 4 – April 17, 1881: Algiers (accompanied by painter Frédéric Samuel Cordey (1854-1911) and several other friends from Montmartre).

April – June 1881: In France – Bougival, Chatou, Croissy.

July 20, 1881: Dieppe, France.

July 27, 1881: Wargemont, Normandy with Paul Bérard (successful banker and diplomat) and Bérard's family.

November 1881 – January 1882: Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Calabria, Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Palermo. In January 1882, Renoir visited the composer Richard Wagner and sketched a portrait of Wagner.

January 20, 1882: L'Estaque with Paul Cézanne.

February 6, 1882: Renoir ill with pneumonia; still recovering in southern France in early March.

March 10 – April 30, 1882: Algiers.

August 15, 1882: Dieppe, France.

August 13, 1883: Le Havre, Étretat, Tréport, Yport, France.

September 5 – October 5, 1883: Guernsey, Jersey.

December 10 – December 26, 1883: Côte d'Azur and Genoa with Monet; visits Cézanne in southern France.

In January 1883, the French cabinet resigned after an attempted coup d'état. Union Générale Bank collapsed and Durand-Ruel was in a difficult financial position. He organized the seventh Impressionist exhibit, which included twenty-five pictures from Renoir.

Two of Renoir's most important works from this period are Dance in the City (1883) and Dance in the Country (1883) painted three months apart. A greater demarcation of contours is shown in these two pictures. The paint is applied very smoothly in both, with little impasto or the broken brushstrokes of the works of the 1860s. Both were sold to Durand-Ruel on August 25, 1891 for 7500 francs. Both are now at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.


Dance in the City, 1883. Oil on Canvas, 180 x 90 cm. Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

A third picture from this period is considered one of Renoir's least-characteristic and most modern: Children's Afternoon at Wargemont (1884, Nationalgalerie, Berlin). Meier-Graefe, one of the most dedicated scholars of Renoir, said, "There has never before been such a room in the history of painting. One is tempted to ask if the room really existed."

Still, Durand-Ruel did not right the company for several years. Renoir later wrote to his son Jean, "Durand-Ruel was a missionary. It is lucky for us that his religion was painting… In 1885 he almost went under, and the rest of us with him." But by 1886, Durand-Ruel was making his way across the Atlantic to exhibit French Impressionists in New York. Renoir and Durand-Ruel were restored to prosperity.

Renoir's return to Old Masters (1890s)


Girl with a Fan, 1881. Oil on Canvas, 65 x 50 cm. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Renoir's close study of the Old Masters and the classical art of Greece and Rome dramatically changed his subject and technique. Renoir now felt more confident paintings figures and portraits. His technique became more precise, spare, and succinct — a combination of classical and Impressionist. Renoir termed his new technique his manière aigre (sour manner).

Renoir had painted decorative panels as an apprentice and before visiting Italy. Right before traveling to Italy, Renoir unsuccessfully attempted to get a commission from the French government to paint a decorative panel in a public building. Renoir's travels to Pompeii, Florence and Rome reflected an interest in how fresco and panel painting techniques could affect his canvas painting

After visiting Italy and spending much time in the Mediterranean, Renoir tended to place his figures in a richer blue-green background than in his earlier work. In the 1880s, Renoir started using ultramarine blue rather than his former pure cobalt blue. Renoir was reading Cennino Cennini's Il Libro dell'Arte (Craftman's Handbook) in the early 1880s, and trying to learn more about Medieval and Renaissance methods of mixing and applying paint.

In 1884, Renoir spent two weeks visiting Monet in the South of France, traveling from Côte d'Azur to Genoa and Marseilles.

Pierre-August Renoir and his wife Aline had three sons. Renoir's first son, Pierre, was born on March 21, 1885 at 18, rue Houdon, close to place Pigalle in Paris. Pierre Renoir became an actor and director of the Théâtre de l'Athénée. Pierre Renoir died on March 11, 1952.

In 1887 Paul Durand-Ruel opened a New York outpost. The gallery carried not only works by Impressionists, but also Rembrandt, Velazquez and El Greco. Durand-Ruel sold Renoirs to some of the most important American collectors, including the Ryerson, Havemeyer, and Potter Palmer families. Renoir and Durand-Ruel formed a strong friendship, and Renoir painted portraits of everyone in the art dealer's family. Finally, in 1910, Renoir painted a portrait of Paul Durand-Ruel himself. It is still part of the Durand-Ruel family's private collection.


Low Tide at Yport, 1883. Oil on Canvas, 54.5 x 65.3 in. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

On April 14, 1890 Renoir married his long-time companion and model Aline Charigot.

In the 1890s, Renoir traveled extensively around France painting in its diverse locations. Renoir also visited the Prado in Madrid, and the important museums of London, Dresden, and Amsterdam. In his letters, Renoir raves about the work of Velazquez, Titian, and Rubens. The Bathers series (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musée de l'Orangerie, among others) completed in 1892 demonstrates Renoir's increased expertise and confidence with the human figure.

Paul Durand-Ruel held a successful retrospective of Renoir's works in 1892. Many paintings were sold, including At the Piano (ca. 1892), a picture of two young girls completely engrossed in reading music and playing the piano. Neither of the girls looks at the viewer. Stéphane Mallarmé (poet, 1842-1898) lobbied the French government to buy works by Renoir and other living French artists. As a result, At the Piano was bought by the French cultural ministry for the Musée de Luxembourg. This was Renoir's first recognition by the French government and added considerably to his stature. Today At the Piano is part of the Musée d'Orsay's collection.

During the early 1890s, Renoir spent much of the summer with Madame Eugène Manet (Berthe Morisot) and her family. They had an estate at Mézy, a country town on the Seine, 38 km northwest of Paris. It is thought that At the Piano is set there and that Julie Manet (Morisot's daughter) is the standing red-haired girl in the picture.

In the 1890s, the Renoir family spent most of the winter in Côte d'Azur. The warm weather and sunshine was thought to be salubrious. Pierre-Auguste Renoir had been showing signs of rheumatoid arthritis since about 1890. He broke his right arm after falling off his bicycle in 1897 while in Essoyes, Champagne, his wife's hometown. In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Renoir, who was ambidextrous, painted with his left hand. From that point on, Renoir only painted with help from others.


St. Tropez, France, 1898-1900. Oil on Canvas, 65.4 x 54.5 cm. Birmingham Museum, UK.

Renoir's second son Jean was born in 1894 (Jean Renoir died in 1979). Jean Renoir was sent to prestigious private boarding schools, from which he ran away. He later wrote a memoir about his father Renoir: My Father, published in France in 1958.

At the time of Jean Renoir's birth, Ambroise Vollard opened a gallery at rue Laffitte. Vollard aggressively bought paintings from Renoir and kept many of them warehoused until Vollard believed the time was ripe to sell them. Vollard was also a regular visitor at the Renoir household while Pierre-Auguste's children were growing up. Many of Vollard's Renoirs were not shown until after Renoir's death.

Aline's father owned a small parcel land in Champagne, but her family was far from wealthy. Aline was typical of the models chosen by Pierre-Auguste Renoir: working class girls who were maids, seamstresses, milliners, actresses — but not professional models. Renoir told his son Pierre, "Even before I could walk, I loved to paint women." But Renoir once said, "Cats are the only women it is worth talking about. They are the most enjoyable to paint." Renoir often painted them in a single sitting.

In 1898, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was sufficiently prosperous that he bought a country house in Essoyes, Aline's home village.


Jean Renoir Sewing, c. 1899. Oil on Canvas, 55.4 x 46.5 cm. Art Institute of Chicago.

According to his son Jean, Pierre-Auguste submitted a painting to the 1900 World's Fair in Paris because all his peers were doing so. "It won't be noticed beside the Eiffel Tower, but I shan't seem to be setting myself apart from the others." Renoir took his family to Paris for the World's Fair. Later that year (1900) Renoir was awarded the Légion d'honneur medal. After dithering for a few days about whether accepting it meant compromising his principles, Pierre-Auguste Renoir finally took it writing to Monet "I have let them give me the Legion of Honor. Please believe that I am not letting you know of it because I am either right or wrong, but only because I do not wish this bit of ribbon to jeopardize our long friendship in any way."

Pierre-Auguste and Aline Renoir's third and last son, Claude [CoCo], was born in 1901. At the time of Claude's birth, Pierre-Auguste was using a cane to help him walk. Claude Renoir eventually became a ceramicist

In 1903, Renoir met Maurice Gangnat, a French steel tycoon. Gangnat had never shown an affinity for art before encountering Renoir, from whom he immediately bought twelve paintings. Gangnat ultimately bought 180 Renoirs, all from Renoir's last two decades. These were shipped to Gangnat's mansion near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Many were later bought by Americans and donated to museums in the United States. Other important new collectors of Renoir during this period were the Bernheim brothers.


The Pinned Hat and the Bather, c. 1905. Lithograph in black on thick grayish-ivory wove paper, 26.4 x 32.2 cm (image), 27.7 x 35.9 cm (sheet). Art Institute of Chicago.



Portrait of Claude Renoir, 1908. Etching on Paper, 16.19 x 13.18 cm. Minneapolis Museum of Arts.

Renoir and his family were spending more time in Côte d'Azur in 1902-1903 because of Renoir's persistent bronchitis as well as his arthritis, according to Jean Renoir. In 1903, they discovered a farmhouse for sale near Cagnes-sur-Mer. It had an olive grove with trees said to be 1000 years old at the time and a number of outbuildings. Renoir bought it and renovated it. The house was called "Les Collettes."

Fifty-nine works by Renoir were shown by Durand-Ruel in London in the winter of 1905. The exhibit was held at Grafton Galleries and comprised over three hundred Impressionist paintings, the largest Impressionist exhibit up to that point.

In 1907, Renoir made a bronze medallion of his youngest son Claude.

Following Pierre-Auguste Renoir's repeated bouts of bronchitis, the family made their permanent home in Côte d'Azur in 1908. However, Renoir and his family often paid visits of several months to the well-known spas of the day, for instance Vichy, to help Pierre-Auguste's rapidly advancing arthritis

In addition to Durand-Ruel who was showing works by Renoir in both New York and Paris, Alfred Stieglitz showed prints by Renoir at his Little Galleries (at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York) during the 1910-1911 season. In 1913, five Renoir paintings were exhibited at the influential New York Amory show

Renoir wanted to continue to paint, but he could no longer hold the brushes by himself, and was frustrated by his attempts to paint. In about 1912, Vollard asked Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) to sculpt with Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Maillol was unhappy with the arrangement, and Vollard instead hired a Catalan sculptor Richard Guino (1890-1973), who was then living in the Montparnasse section of Paris helping Maillol in his studio. According to Jean Renoir's memoir, Vollard not only paid Guino, but seemed to exercise some aesthetic judgment in the creation of the sculptures. Guino stayed with Renoir until 1918, when he moved back to Paris and signed an exclusive contract with Galerie Hébrard.


Woman at the Well, 1910. Oil on Canvas. Paul Rosenberg, NYC.

From 1912, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was wheelchair bound. Renoir's arthritis had so afflicted him by this time that he was no longer able to wear proper shoes, but had to have soft slippers attached to his feet by someone else. He was driven around France by his long-time driver Batistan.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir tried to interest his son Jean in the visual arts, particularly ceramics, but instead both Pierre (his eldest son) and Jean joined the French Cavalry shortly before the outbreak of World War I. Jean Renoir became a reconnaissance pilot in the war and was wounded in battle twice. Pierre was also wounded, but not as seriously as Jean. Jean was left with a permanent limp. During their recoveries in two separate hospitals, Aline visited them both. Aline was instrumental in convincing his doctors not to amputate Jean's leg. Jean Renoir spent much of his time in recovery immobilized, watching Charlie Chaplin movies. He subsequently became a well-regarded film director.

Jean's mother, Pierre-Auguste Renoir's only wife, Aline Renoir died in June 1915, several months after her sons were wounded. She had been suffering from diabetes for years.

From about the time of Aline's death, Pierre-Auguste's health began to deteriorate sharply. Renoir had to be dressed warming from head to toe no matter the season, or he complained of freezing. He had cats sleep in his wheelchair with him to try to stay warm. Renoir lost weight (he wrote that he weighed 46 kilos in 1912) and got bedsores from being confined to his wheelchair. Renoir was so slight in his last years that the cook, who had been with the family for decades, carried Renoir in her arms around the house and environs.p>

Still, according to his son Jean's account, Pierre-Auguste Renoir tried to stay active. "He had no great faith in the benefit of walking, which brought into play only certain muscles. He believed much more in ball-games and began juggling every morning ten minutes before going to his studio." Renoir had custom-made sticks used for his juggling. Before his wife's death in 1915, Renoir enjoyed playing billiards with her because he believed getting into awkward positions would make him more flexible.

Renoir continued painting until the very end of his life. He invented a moving canvas roll, powered by a crank attached to the chain of his old bicycle. The canvas roll permitted Renoir to work on small portions of a large picture without having to move himself around unduly.


Woman with Drapery, 1908. Oil on Canvas. Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest.

Most of Renoir's last paintings, those from 1917 to his death, were nudes. The last model painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir was Catherine (Dede) Hessling. She became his son (film director) Jean's first actress as well as Jean's first wife. She and Jean Renoir had a son Jacques, who directed many films and television series, including The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.

In the fall of 1919, though he had gangrene, Renoir was driven to Paris to see some of his works exhibited for the first time at the Louvre. Renoir was quite weak after arriving home to Cagnes from his trip to Paris and developed pneumonia, which was the proximate cause of his death. According to his son Jean, who was with him at his death, Renoir had a bowl of apples brought in to him by his son Claude the morning of his death. Renoir was painting until a few hours before his death on December 3, 1919. As he stopped painting and passed into unconsciousness, his last words seemed to refer to his painting: "I think I am beginning to understand something about it."

Pierre-Auguste Renoir's oeuvre is especially well represented in museum collections in the United States. The following museums have particularly strong collections of Renoir's work:

  • Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
  • Louvre, Paris.
  • Art Institute of Chicago, IL.
  • Barnes Collection, Merion, PA.
  • Clark Institute, Williamstown, MA.
  • Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.