Developments in the 19th Century


Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


The Impressionism


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Pierre-Auguste Renoir




Final Recognition

It was during his time in London that Monet met with the first great collector of Impressionist art, the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who had sought refuge in England and taken his collection with him. In his London gallery, he exhibited paintings by Monet and Pissarro. On his return to Paris the following year, he visited Manet's studio, where he purchased 25 canvases. In 1876, Durand-Ruel organized the second Impressionist exhibition in Rue le Peletier, Paris, in the vain hope of a better financial success than that of 1874.
In the following year, 1877, the Impressionists organized a third exhibition, again in Rue le Peletier. It was a historical moment because, for the first time, they named this show of their finest work "Exposition des Impressionistes". It was supported by the first issue of their art publication L'Impressioniste, which ran for only a few months. It was the last time that all the members were to exhibit together. Such solidarity weakened at the subsequent shows of 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1886, with the defection of Cezanne, followed by Monet, Renoir, and Sisley. New names appeared, however, including Zandomeneghi, Gauguin, Redon, Signac, and Seurat. Just as Impressionism was reaching the end of its short life, the artists began to receive public recognition, starting with Monet, who exhibited with the sculptor Rodin in 1889. The success of these two artists increased as the years went by. Durand-Ruel took Impressionism to the US, showing a few paintings in New York in 1886. Dr Gachet, an art collector and engravings enthusiast, built a studio for the production of etchings, and it was here that Pissarro and Cezanne produced their first graphics. Some of the greatest artists were also the most enthusiastic collectors, such as Degas and Gauguin. The painter and collector Gustave Caillebotte, who exhibited at five of the eight Impressionist exhibitions, bequeathed 65 paintings to the French nation, almost half of which were disdainfully rejected by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.



A student of traditional painting and the most "classical" of the Impressionists, Renoir's style resembled that of Manet and Monet only towards the end of the 1870s. His vibrant and slightly corrosive light and his palette of whites, pinks, and blues recalled such great Rococo painters as Fragonard and Watteau. Like Cezanne, he paid great attention to volumes, but his model, if any, was Rubens. A painter of the joy of living, especially glorious female nudes, he was and perhaps remains the best loved of the Impressionists.



Monet intended his unfinished Dejeuner sur l'herbe as a sort of painting manifesto of his own ideas. He had hoped to submit it to the 1866 Salon, but missed the deadline and abandoned the project in the same year. The first attempts to depict light shining and filtering through foliage and flooding onto the objects below can be seen. The figures are fragmentary, and the light falls from the foliage and spreads shadows onto the white of the tablecloth. The plein air painters believed that the colour of shade was influenced by the surrounding colours, and therefore must shine with a thousand tones and not be strengthened by the use of blacks. This conviction is at the centre of such masterpieces as Renoir's La Balangoire (1876), in which the variegation of light among the trees rustling in the breeze of a summer's afternoon determined the relationship of light and shade. The reflections infuse life and movement into the surface of subjects. The shadows of the trees fall in patches on the clothes, faces, tree trunks, and the pathway of coloured spots, and the effect was considered by some critics to be too "daring".

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
La Balangoire



Pierre-Auguste Renoir

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Limoges, France
died December 3, 1919, Cagnes

French painter originally associated with the Impressionist movement. His early works were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women.
Early years

Renoir was born into a family of artisans. His father, a tailor who had seven children, moved with his family to Paris about1845. Renoir demonstrated his gift at an early age. Quickly recognizing his talent, his parents apprenticed him, at age 13, to work in a porcelain factory, where he learned to decorate plates with bouquets of flowers. Shortly after that, he was painting fans and then cloth panels representing religious themes for missionaries to hang in their churches. His skill and the great pleasure he took in his work soon convinced him he should study painting in earnest. Having saved a little money, he decided, in 1862, to take evening courses in drawing and anatomy at the École des Beaux-Artsas well as painting lessons at the studio of Charles Gleyre, a Swiss painter who had been a student of the 19th-century Neoclassical painter J.-A.-D. Ingres. Although the academic style of his teacher did not suit Renoir, he nevertheless accepted its discipline in order to acquire the elementary skills needed to become a painter.

Renoir felt a much greater affinity with three students who entered the studio a few months later: Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, and Frédéric Bazille. All four students dreamed of an art that was closer to life and free from past traditions. The shared ideals of the four young men quickly led to a strong friendship, and Renoir's early works include Portrait of the Painter Bazille (1867), The Painter Sisley and His Wife (1868), and Monet Painting in His Garden (1873). At the sametime in another workshop at the Académie Suisse, the young artists Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro were preoccupied with the same problems as Renoir and his friends. With Bazille as the intermediary, the two groups met frequently.

Association with the Impressionists

Circumstances encouraged Renoir to attempt a new freedom and experimentation in his style. The convention of the time was that a painting—even a landscape—had to be executed in the studio. In the spring of 1864, however, Gleyre's four students moved temporarily to the forest of Fontainebleau, where they devoted themselves to painting directly from nature. The Fontainebleau forest had earlier attracted other artists, among them Théodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet, who insisted that art represent the reality of everyday life, even though they had not yet completely renounced the constraints imposed by traditional training. In 1863 Édouard Manet took a much bolder step: his picture Déjeuner sur l'herbe (“Luncheon on the Grass”) provoked a violent scandal because its subject and technique stressed the observation of modern reality over the repetition of a traditional ideal. Manet's daring made him, in the eyes of these young artists, the leader of a new movement.

Conditions were ripe for the birth of a new pictorial language,and Impressionism, bursting upon the scene, attracted notoriety with the first Impressionist exposition of 1874, heldindependently of the official Salon. It took 10 years for the movement to acquire its definitive form, its independent vision, and its unique perceptiveness. But one can point to 1874 as the year of departure for the movement that subsequently spawned modern art.

Renoir's work is a perfect illustration of this new approach in thought and technique. By using small, multicoloured strokes, he evoked the vibration of the atmosphere, the sparkling effect of foliage, and especially the luminosity of a young woman's skin in the outdoors. Renoir and his companions stubbornly strove to produce light-suffused paintings from which black was excluded, but their pursuits led to many disappointments: their paintings, so divergent from traditional formulas, were frequently rejected by the juries of the Salon and were extremely difficult to sell. Despite the continuing criticism, some of the Impressionists were making themselves known, as much among art critics as among the lay public. Renoir, because of his fascination with the human figure, was distinctive among the others, who were more interested in landscape. Thus, he obtained several orders for portraits and was introduced, thanks to thepublisher Georges Charpentier, to upper-middle-class society, from whom he obtained commissions for portraits, most notably of women and children.

Renoir mastered the ability to convey his immediate visual impressions, and his paintings showed great vitality, emphasizing the pleasures of life despite the financial worries that troubled him. Several of his masterpieces date from this period: La Loge (1874; “The Theatre Box”), Le Moulin de la galette (1876), The Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881), and Mme Charpentier and Her Children (1878). Charpentier organized a personal exposition for the works of Renoir in 1879 in the gallery La Vie Moderne.

Rejection of Impressionism

In 1881 and 1882 Renoir made several trips to Algeria, Italy, and Provence, and these eventually had a considerable effect on his art and on his life. He became convinced that the systematic use of the Impressionistic technique was no longer sufficient for him and that smallbrushstrokes of contrasting colours placed side by side did not allow him to convey the satiny effects of the skin. He also discovered that black did not deserve the opprobrium given to it by his comrades and that, in certain cases, it hada striking effect and gave a great intensity to the other colours. During his journey to Italy, he discovered Raphael and the hallmarks of classicism: the beauty of drawing, the purity of a clear line to define a form, and the expressive force of smooth painting when used to enhance the suppleness and modeling of a body. At this same time, he happened to read Il libro dell'arte (1437; A Treatise on Painting ) by Cennino Cennini, which reinforced his new ideas. All of these revelations were so powerful and unexpected that they provoked a crisis, and he was tempted to break with Impressionism, which he had already begun to doubt. He felt that until now he had been mistaken in pursuing the ephemeral in art.

Most of his works executed from 1883 to 1884 on are so marked by a new discipline that art historians have grouped them under the title the “Ingres” period (to signify their vague similarity to the technique of J.-A.-D. Ingres) or the “harsh,” or “dry,” period. Renoir's experiments with Impressionism were not wasted, however, because he retained a luminous palette. Nevertheless, in paintings from this period, such as The Umbrellas (c. 1883) and many depictions of bathers, Renoir emphasized volume, form, contours, and line rather than colour and brushstroke.

His strong reaction against Impressionism continued until about 1890. During these years he made several trips to southern France: Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, and Martigues. The nature of this sunlit region gave greater encouragement to his separation from Impressionism, which to him was associated with the landscapes of the valley of the Seine. Southern France offered him scenes bursting with colour and sensuality. At the same time, the seemingly joyous spontaneity of nature gave him the desire to depart from his newfound adherence to the dictates of classicism. While in southern France, he recovered the instinctive freshness of his art; he painted women at their bath with the same healthful bloom he would give to bouquets of flowers.

His financial situation was appreciably improved; he was married in 1890 to Aline Charigot (some sources give the year as 1881), and the exposition that was organized for him in 1892 by the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel was a great success. Renoir's future was assured, and his work of that period reflected his new security and also his confidence in the future.

Later years

Renoir had his first attack of rheumatism in 1894, and, as the attacks became more and more frequent, he spent more and more time in southern France, where the climate was better for his health. About 1899 he sought refuge in the small village of Cagnes; in 1907 he settled there permanently, buying the estate of Les Collettes, where he spent the rest of his life. In 1910 he was no longer able to walk. Although his infirmity became more and more constraining, Renoir never ceased to paint; when his fingerswere no longer supple, he continued by binding his paintbrush to his hand.

In spite of his misfortune, Renoir's paintings during this period still embodied a cheerful attitude toward life. His themes became more personal and intimate, focusing on portraits of his wife, his children, and Gabrielle, his maid, whooften also posed for his nude paintings. His still lifes were composed of flowers and fruits from his own garden, and the landscapes were those that surrounded him. The nudes, especially, reflect the serenity that he found in his work. Examples of this period include The Artist's Family (1896) and Sleeping Bather (1897). He attempted to embody his admiration for the female form in sculpture, with the assistance of young Richard Guino. Since Renoir was no longer able to do sculpture himself, Guino became, about 1913, the skillful instrument who willingly followed his directions. He yielded before the personality of Renoir and succeeded so well that the works have all the qualities of Renoir's style.

Renoir's wife died in 1915 after having returned from Gérardmer, where she had gone to see their son Jean, who had been seriously wounded in the war, and who would go on to become an important filmmaker. Renoir survived his wifeby four years. Several months before his death, he was able to go to Paris to see his Portrait of Mme Georges Charpentier (1876–77), which had been recently acquired by the state. Onthat occasion, several friends wheeled him for the last time through the Louvre to view the masterpieces that he had venerated throughout his life.

Raymond Cogniat






oil on canvas
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London.



Pierre-Auguste Renoir
La Loge
Oil on canvas
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London


This painting, completed by Renoir when he was 33, was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. The romantic, fashionable subject of the work was in favour at the time and so was one of only four paintings shown that escaped criticism. In the foreground is a young woman in a black-and-white striped dress, wearing evening gloves, with pink roses in her hair and at her breast. In one hand, resting on the red velvet ledge of the theatre box, she holds her opera glasses, while in the other she holds a folded black fan. Her male companion, seated behind her in order to give her prominence, scans the audience through his raised opera glasses. A model, Nini Lopez, and the artist's brother, Edmond, posed as the society couple.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir
At the Theatre




Pierre-Auguste Renoir:

The Luncheon of the Boating Party


Venue for gentry, bourgeoisie and boheme



Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Luncheon of the Boating Party


It took Pierre-August Renoir, from his studio in the centre of Pans, a mere 20 minutes by train to reach the open countryside. Every half hour, a train left on the new line to St. Germain - apopular technical achievement in an era which could boast of so little in the way of public transport. As a consequence, rural Chatou on Sundays was packed with Parisians who, like the artists, longed for fresh air and light. They promenaded along the banks of the Seine, "roamed aimlessly under high poplars", went boating or swam in the Seine, unperturbed by the many floating carcasses of dead animals.
Thus the account that Renoir gave retrospectively to his son, the film director Jean Renoir, and to the art dealer Ambroise Vollard, both of whom recorded the artist's memoirs in writing. The circumstances under which Renoir painted The Luncheon of the Boating Party are therefore extraordinarily well documented.
According to Renoir, two establishments were especially popular among Sunday trippers. One, situated on an island on the Seine, was called the "Grenouillere", literally the "frog pond". The name was a pun, referring less to croaking amphibians than to the Parisian girls who went there in search of a lover.
The clientele at the "Restaurant Four-naise", on the other hand, consisted largely of "young sporting types in striped singlets", Renoir recalled. "It was a sort of water sports club", a hotel proprietor having "hit on the idea of doing up a wooden shack he owned on the island and serving lemonade there to Sunday-trippers ... He was a rowing enthusiast himself and knew all about hiring boats out to Parisians." Monsieur Fournaise appears in the picture in the appropriate outfit, a white cotton singlet stretched over his bulging chest; he is apparently observing the activities of his guests.
Renoir had frequented this establishment since the 1860s, forming an acquaintance with the proprietors and introducing several of his artist friends. He loved to patronise this "amusing restaurant" where "you could always find a volunteer to play the piano of an evening" - whereupon the tables would be cleared aside on the terrace outside to make room for dancing.
Here, over the years, Renoir painted a large number of landscapes, as well as portraits of the landlord and his family. In 1880 he decided to embark on a large-scale work, "a picture of boaters, which I've been itching to do for a long time ... One must from time to time try things beyond one's strength." The painting measures 129.5 x 172.7cm and is therefore equal in size to another ambitious work begun five years earlier: Le Moulin de la Galette. Before completing it at his Paris studio, Renoir had worked on the painting from April to September 1880 on the terrace of the riverside restaurant. It would appear that he enjoyed himself: "The weather is good and I have models", he wrote in a letter. He later looked back on the experience with nostalgia: "We still had life ahead of us; we denied ourselves nothing ... Life was a never-ending celebration!"


Paintings to pay the bill



Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Luncheon of the Boating Party



The boaters and their lady-friends, having finished eating, sit back among the "debris" of the meal, relaxed and sated. In a novel written in 1868, the brothers Edmond and Jules de Gon-court, contemporaries of Renoir, described the mood after a full meal in the country: "The day was there solely to be enjoyed: the fatigue ... the fresh, invigorating air, quivering reflections on the surface of the water, piercing sunlight... that almost animal intoxication with pleasure."
On the white tablecloth, besides crumpled linen napkins, we see a bowl of fruit, a small barrel of brandy, half-full bottles
of wine and various glasses: round ones for red wine, tall ones for coffee, smaller ones for "chasers", cognac or liqueurs. In his A Day in the Country, published in 1881, Guy de Maupassant includes the menu of a simple riverside restaurant: baked fish, rabbit stew, salad and a sweet. The characters also order a local wine and a bottle of Bordeaux to go with their meal. This was a fairly large repast, costing about one and a half francs per person, a luxury Renoir and his artist friends were unable to afford for many years.
"I don't always have enough to eat", he told the artist Frederic Bazille in 1869. "I'll write you more some other time, because I'm hungry and I have a plate of turbot with white sauce in front of me. I'm not putting a stamp on this letter. I have only 12 sous in my pocket, and that's for going to Paris, when I need it." In the 1860s and 1870s the works of avant-garde painters who were ridiculed as mere "impressionists" were worth practically nothing. Artists who, unlike Edouard Manet or Paul Cezanne, did not come from wealthy families, had a particularly hard life. Claude Monet had the hardest time of all; with a wife and child to support, he very often had little more than the bread Renoir sometimes brought him after visiting his parents.
The latter, artisans who had retired to the country, may not have been rich, but at least they had bread on their plates and a coop full of rabbits. Renoir, too, would probably have been better off had he stuck to the trade he had originally learned: porcelain painting, a skill which had enabled him to earn a living at the age of fifteen. But at 21 the artist, born in 1841, turned his hand to painting in earnest. He learned "anatomy, perspective, drawing and portraiture" at the studio of a well-known teacher, where he also met other young painters.
These artists would meet at a Parisian cafe to talk about new forms of perception and revolutionary painting techniques. Meeting at a cafe was necessary because most of them stayed in such miserable lodgings. (It is thanks to deplorable housing conditions that cafes, restaurants and bars have come to play such a vibrant role in French culture.) For many years Renoir's furniture consisted of no more than "a mattress lying on the floor, a table, chair and chest of drawers ... and a stove for the model".
The artist used the stove to make his daily bowl of bean or lentil soup. According to his son, Renoir enjoyed "fresh basic foods", detesting margarine or sauces made with flour. However, he was able to indulge his innate epicurean leanings only by accepting the occasional invitation of some rich patron, or by dining at the "Restauarant Fournaise". Here he was seldom presented with a bill at the end of the meal: "You gave us that landscape", the proprietor would say. "My father insisted his painting was without value: 'I'm warning you, nobody will want it.' 'What does that matter to me if it's beautiful. Anyway, one must hang something on the wall to hide those patches of damp.'"


Sporting and other friends

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Luncheon of the Boating Party



For much of his career Renoir could not afford to pay the fees of professional models, a single sitting costing as much as ten francs - the price of several meals. However, even when he was much better off, he preferred to paint his family and friends. He was interested in people and their relationships. He was a social being: "I need to feel a bustle going on around me."
According to Renoir, all the social classes met under Fournaise's striped awning. They had two things in common: friendship to the artist and an interest in art or sport. The man in the shiny black top hat, for example, was an art collector called Charles Ephrussi, a banker and owner of the art magazine Gazette des Beaux-Arts, in which, in 1880, he devoted a study to the Impressionists.
By contrast, the bowler-hatted man at the centre of the painting was interested only in "horses, women and boats". The former officer and diplomat, Baron Bar-bier, is reported to have told Renoir: "I don't know anything about art, and even less about your art, but I like helping you."
When he heard of the artist's plans for a boating picture, he offered to take over the organization and provide boats. Aristocrats like himself kept fit by riding, boxing and tennis, whereas ordinary people made do with walking, or riding the newly-invented bicycle. (It was in falling from a bicycle that Renoir broke his arm in 1880). But the gentry, bourgoisie and boheme would generally meet in order to indulge their passion for rowing. Fournaise "knew all about hiring boats out to Parisians, entrusting them only to trained enthusiasts ... Everyone pulled on their oars as hard as they could, trying to break records and become expert rowers."
One such expert was Gustave Caille-botte, a wealthy bachelor, here shown sitting astride a chair next to the actress Ellen Andree. A trained engineer, he built racing boats, using them to participate in competitions. At the same time, he was an enthusiastic painter, though aware of the limitations of his talent. He was a generous man, paying a good price for his friends' works.
Wearing the appropriately named cano-tiers - "boaters" - on their heads, and with necks and muscular arms bared, Fournaise and Caillebotte stand out among the other guests in their correct city clothes. In an era which devoted so much attention to the "decency" of clothing, a girl might easily feel embarrassed by a sportsman's bare arms, as Maupassant recounts in his Day in the Country: "She pretended not to notice them", whereas her mother, "bolder, and drawn by a feminine curiosity which may even have been desire, could not remove her eyes ..."


Ideal woman in a hat


Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Luncheon of the Boating Party


The guests gathered on the terrace had yet another thing in common: their youth. Even the solemn-looking banker Ephrussi was only 31. Caillebotte was 32, while the girls in their fashionable hats, whose healthful, rosy bloom Renoir so loved to paint, were little more than twenty years old. "Come tomorrow with a pretty summer hat", the artist wrote to one of them on 17th September 1880, "in a light dress. Wear something underneath, it's starting to get cold ..."
None of the sportsmen's lady-friends would have been seen dead without a hat. The hat was an indispensable sign of respectability and social status. The actresses Ellen Andree and Jeanne Samary, the latter of whom is shown holding her hands over her ears in the background, refusing to listen to the compliments of two admirers, wear highly fashionable headgear acquired from a milliner's. The landlord's daughter Alphonsine, leaning on the railing at the edge of the terrace, like the seamstress Aline Charigot and the flower-girl Angele, have trimmed their simple straw hats with flowers or ribbons.
Angele, seen in Renoir's painting with a wine glass raised to her lips, was one of the many prostitutes who roamed Montmartre. This, at least, was the account Renoir gave his son. While he was working on the boating picture at Fournaise's, Angele had managed to "pick up" a young man from a well-to-do family who married her and took her to live in the country, where he turned her into a lady with affected manners. Aline Charigot, here seen entirely engrossed in her little dog, had recently moved to Paris from her home in Burgundy. She, too, had found a serious admirer: Auguste Renoir. Since his decision to devote his life to painting, Renoir had subordinated everything to this aim, even suffering hunger or cold if need be. According to his son, he went "through life with the delicious feeling of possessing nothing" but "the hands in his pockets", avoiding serious relationships of any kind.
For "I have known painters", Renoir recalled, "who produced nothing of value because they spent their time seducing women instead of painting them." The actress Jeanne Samary, who wanted to marry him, was eventually forced to resign: "He was not made for marriage; with his brush he weds every woman he paints." However, what had been so easily acceptable to a young bohemian proved increasingly onerous to the forty-year-old artist: "When you are alone, the evenings are deadly dull." In 1879 he met Aline.
The young seamstress was mad about water and "adored rowing". Renoir took her with him to Chatou. During the evenings, Baron Barbier waltzed her round the terrace, while Caillebotte looked after her "as he might have done ayounger sister" and Ellen Andree was determined to "give this delightful peasant girl a bit of polish". But Aline refused to give up her Burgundian accent and "become an artificial Parisian".
She sat for Renoir, and he taught her to swim. At that time, according to Maupassant, only women who were sufficiently well-rounded dared bathe in the river. "The others, padded out with cottonwool, shored up with stays, propped up a little here, touched up a little there, looked on in blank disdain while their sisters splashed about in the water."
Aline could show herself without fear. The 21-year-old Burgundian was "slim and yet everything in her was rounded"; she was one of those "privileged beings whom the gods have spared the horrors of acute angles." But she not only incorporated Renoir's ideal of feminine beauty, the artist felt that, with her, he was altogether in the best of hands. Aline appeared to him to be "extraordinarily gifted to succeed in an area of which men scarcely dare dream: making life bearable".


Air, light and water




Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Luncheon of the Boating Party



Ironically, while he was painting the apparently so light-hearted and harmonious Luncheon of the Boating Party, Renoir's life had entered a crisis. No longer as young as he had been, the artist suffered from lack of recognition, honour and money. He had also come to a crossroads in his art: "I no longer knew what I was about."
For many years Renoir had belonged to the group of artists known as "Impressionists". Together with Frederic Bazille, Ca-mille Pissaro, Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet, he had left his studio in the 1860s to paint out of doors, sailing down the Seine painting and drawing with Sisley in 1865, or competing to produce the best work with Claude Monet at the "Gre-nouillere", near Chatou, four years later. The young artists tried "to capture the light and project it directly onto the canvas", as Monet put it. They developed new methods of reproducing the effect of light in the trees and its reflection on the surface of the water. They dissolved solid forms and revolutionized painting. At the same time, however, they met with the stern disapproval of the critics and the public, and their exhibitions of 1874 and 1876 ended in failure, leaving them lucky if they managed to sell a painting for 50 francs. By 1878, Renoir had had enough and began to do traditional portraits of rich Paris society ladies. "I think he's sunk", wrote Pissaro in 1879. "Poverty is so hard to bear", he added sympathetically. "The problem isn't art, but a hungry stomach ... and an empty purse."
However, Pissaro was doing his friend an injustice. Renoir's break with Impressionism - the group was in the process of dissolving anyway - had artistic reasons: "I had travelled as far as Impressionism could take me", he later recalled, "arriving at a point where I could no longer paint or draw ... I began to notice that the paintings that came out were too complicated and that one was constantly forced to cheat."
In the Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir "cheats" in virtuoso fashion once again. His reflections of light and reverberating shadows, the atmosphere of a hot summer's day spent on a riverside terrace, remain a masterpiece of Impressionist "plein-air". The Seine landscape in the background is composed of air, light and water. The figures, however, acquire a new sense of solidity. Rigorously composed, and far from dissolving into their hazy surroundings, they attain an almost monumental stature at the centre of the canvas. They are harbingers of the new "rigorous style" that Renoir was soon to evolve under the influence of the Old Masters.
After completing the Boating Party, the artist - with the money from his portraits -allowed himself a trip to the South. The break had a considerable effect on his life and art. On returning to Paris in the autumn of 1881, his decision was made: he set up house with Aline, who made his "life bearable", and returned to work with renewed confidence.

Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen





Architecture in itself was not a subject that greatly excited the Impressionists; for them, it was static material. The contents of a city, on the other hand, were a different matter. While individual buildings constituted permanent masses, an avenue or the corner of a square contained life and movement in the form of the figures as they bustled past. Architecture was of interest only when buildings seemed to "move" in the shimmering light. Gothic buildings, such as Rouen Cathedral, made particularly good subjects, as demonstrated in Monet's landmark series. Bridges over water and constructions built of glass were also favoured for their interaction with changing light

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Pont des Arts, Paris
Norton Simon Foundation, Los Angeles


Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Le Pont Neuf
National Gallery, London




The Impressionists flourished during the first 20 years of the Belle Epoque, when Paris was the undisputed capital of pleasure and entertainment. There was dancing everywhere and at all times, throughout the day and night, in cafes, hotels, public dance halls, and open squares. Grand balls were given by the wealthy, dances were organized for the workers and countryfolk, and there was dancing in the cabarets, circuses, opera, and, of course, the ballet. For the Impressionists, dancing was a natural theme; thev captured with ease the slow and fast paces, the grace and the strength of the moves, the sudden stop, the flight, the turn, the way the skirts swept around as the dancers spun. Degas and Renoir were among the most enthusiastic painters of this aspect of Parisian life. Renoir frequented Sunday afternoon-dances at the Moulin de la Galette, while Degas indulged his fascination for life backstage at the Opera.


Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Dance in the Town
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

 Suzanne Valadon, in a dress with a long train, and Eugene Lestringuez
dance against the background of palm trees.



Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Dance in the Country
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

The couple, Paul Lhote and Aline Charigot, with their relaxed pose,
blend elegantly into their surroundings.



Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Dance at Bougival
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir



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