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Pierre Auguste Renoir

1841 - 1919

Born in Limoges, France, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was the child of a working class family. As a boy, Renoir worked in a porcelain factory where his drawing skills led to him begin painting designs on china. He worked painting hangings for overseas missionaries, and painting on fans before he enrolled in art school. During those years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters.

In 1862 he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille and Claude Monet. At times during the 1860s, he did not have enough money to buy paint.

Although Renoir first exhibited paintings in 1864, recognition did not come for another 10 years due, in part, to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War.

While living and working in Montmartre, Renoir engaged in an affair with his model, Suzanne Valadon, who became one of the leading female artists of the day. Later, he married Aline Victorine Charigot, and they had three sons, one of whom, Jean Renoir, became a filmmaker. After marrying his work changed. He became as interested in painting people as he was in painting landscapes.

In 1881 he traveled to Algeria, a country he associated with Eugène Delacroix, then to Madrid, Spain to see the work of Diego Velázquez, also to Italy to see Titian's masterpieces in Florence, and the paintings of Raphael in Rome. On January 15, 1882 Renoir met composer Richard Wagner at his home in Palermo, Sicily. Renoir painted Wagner's portrait in just 35 minutes.

In 1883, he spent the summer in Guernsey, painting 15 paintings in little over a month. Most of these feature Moulin Huet, a bay in St Martin's, Guernsey (These were the subject of a set of commemorative postage stamps, issued by the Bailiwick of Guernsey in 1983).

In 1887, a year when Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee, and upon the request of the queen's associate, Phillip Richbourg, he donated several paintings to the "French Impressionist Paintings" catalog as a gift of his loyalty.

Around 1892, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. In 1907, he moved to the warmer climate of "Les Collettes," a farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer, close to the Mediterranean coast. Renoir painted even during the last 20 years of his life when rheumatoid arthritis severely hampered his movement, and he was wheelchair-bound. He developed progressive deformities in his hands and ankylosis of his right shoulder, requiring him to adapt his painting technique. In the advanced stages of his arthritis, he painted by strapping a brush to his arm, and created sculptures by directing an assistant who worked the clay. Renoir also utilized a moving canvas or picture roll to facilitate painting large works with his limited joint mobility.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, in the Côte d'Azur, on December 3, 1919.