Passport to Paris Artist Profile: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Passport to Paris Artist Profile: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s family moved to Paris when he was a child, and he worked there for the rest of his career. Always looking for new motifs to paint, he traveled extensively, visiting North Africa, Genoa, and many major European cities. Later in his life, he spent winters in southern France, increasingly preferring the idyllic countryside to the bustling city.

Key piece to look for: Banks of the Seine, Bougival (Bords de la Seine, Bougival),1871

Renoir is best known for his paintings of Parisian outdoor social gatherings and his treatment of light as it filtered through trees. He chose densely-knit compositions that captured complex social interchanges, with each figure painted clearly. Although he is known for his group portraits, he also experimented with landscape painting as a way to explore effects of outdoor light and color, which he then applied to his figure paintings. His friends described him as extremely idealistic, using painting to depict the world that he dreamed of, devoid of any hardship or struggle. Despite this, his paintings retain a hint of realism, as they usually depict real people at specific occasions. Even though his paintings usually show scenes of pleasant social interactions, Renoir himself was uncomfortable in social situations, largely due to his transition from having a working-class background to being around wealthy friends and patrons.

Image credit: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Banks of the Seine, Bougival, 1871. Oil on canvas; 16 7/8 x 21 5/8 in. Collection of Frederic C. Hamilton.

Laura Barton is an intern in the Denver Art Museum's education department. Her favorite artwork on view right now is Louis Anquetin's Avenue de Clichy (Street-Five O'clock in the Evening).