The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Pierre Auguste Renoir, 1841-1919

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1841.02.25
Place of Birth: Limoges
Date of Death: 1919.12.17
Place of Death: Cagnes


Pierre Auguste Renoir was an Impressionist painter. His father, Léonard Renoir, was a tailor and his mother, Marguerite Merlet, was a dressmaker. He was the sixth of seven children. His younger brother Edmond (1849-1944) became a writer and journalist.

Lise Tréhot (1848-1922) was Renoir's mistress until 1872. In 1890 he married Aline Charigot (1859-1915). They had three sons, [], Jean (b. 1894) and Claude ('Coco').


Renoir began his career apprenticed to M. Levy, a porcelain painter. Like JW, he studied painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Charles Gleyre. Influenced by Monet in the 1860s he adopted a broken, feathery brushstroke and a light palette. His works had a greater decorative quality than those of the other Impressionists. In the 1870s he took part in the first three Impressionist Exhibitions in Paris. In the second of these in 1876 Albert Wolff, the art critic for Figaro described his Study (Nude in the Sunlight) (1875; Musée d'Orsay, Paris) as a 'heap of decomposing flesh'.

The 1880s saw a change in style, following a trip to Italy in 1881-2, towards greater monumentality and classicism. In 1883 Renoir's first one man show was held at Paul Durand-Ruel's gallery in Paris. In 1888 JW exhibited with Renoir at Durand-Ruel's gallery (#00979). However, in the early 1890s JW described Renoir's work at Durand-Ruel's as 'simply childish' (#06591). In 1894 Arthur Jerome Eddy returned a work by Renoir, JW having apparently made a number of 'very ungallant' remarks about it (#01015).

In the 1890s Renoir turned to etching and lithography but he was not particularly innovative. He exhibited in Britain between 1897 and 1910 at the Goupil Gallery and New English Art Club.

He was also invited to exhibit with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, a society that formed in London in 1898 with JW as its President.

Renoir was awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1900.


Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs. Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; Distel, Anne, 'Pierre Auguste Renoir', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 24 November 2003).