Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) part II

In 1864, Renoir won acceptance into the annual Paris Salon exhibit. There he showed the painting, “La Esmeralda,” which was inspired by a character from Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris. The following year, Renoir again showed at the prestigious Salon, this time displaying a portrait of William Sisley, the wealthy father of artist Alfred Sisley.




While his Salon works helped raise his profile in the art world, Renoir had to struggle to make a living. He sought out commissions for portraits and often depended on the kindness of his friends, mentors, and patrons. The artist Jules Le Coeur and his family served as strong supporters of Renoir’s for many years. Renoir also remained close to Monet, Bazille, and Sisley, sometimes staying at their homes or sharing their studios. According to many biographies, he seemed to have no fixed address during his early career.

Around 1867, Renoir met Lise Tréhot, a seamstress who became his model. She served as the model for such works as “Diana” (1867) and “Lise” (1867). The two also reportedly became romantically involved. According to some reports, she gave birth to his first child, a daughter named Jeanne, in 1870. Renoir never publicly acknowledged his daughter during his lifetime.

Renoir had to take a break from his work in 1870 when he was drafted into the army to serve in France’s war against Germany. He was assigned to a cavalry unit, but he soon fell ill with dysentery. Renoir never saw any action during the war, unlike his friend Bazille who was killed that November.

After the war ended in 1871, Renoir eventually made his way back to Paris. He and some of his friends, including Pissarro, Monet, Cézanne and Edgar Degas, decided to show their works on their own in Paris in 1874, which became known as the first Impressionist exhibition. The group’s name is derived from a critical review of their show, in which the works were called “impressions” rather than finished paintings done using traditional methods. Renoir, like other Impressionists, embraced a brighter palette for his paintings, which gave them a warmer and sunnier feel. He also used different types of brushstrokes to capture his artistic vision on the canvas.

While the first Impressionist exhibition was not a success, Renoir soon found other supportive patrons to propel his career. The wealthy publisher Georges Charpentier and his wife Marguérite took a great interest in the artist and invited him to numerous social gatherings at their Paris home. Through the Charpentiers, Renoir met such famous writers as Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola. He also received portrait commissions from the couple’s friends. His 1878 painting, “Madame Charpentier and her Children,” was featured in the official Salon of the following year and brought him much critical admiration.

to be continued in part III

See the beginning of this article in part I