Pierre Renoir, born of working class parents in the Limoges Region of France realized his love of art from an early age, and began studying art in 1862 in Paris at the age of 21. With little money, his first challenge was to ensure he could actually buy paint. His early work was of the countryside but gradually that theme changed.
He had fallen out with an early benefactor so he was not only deprived of money but also the location at which many of his early work was painted.
He actually painted Richard Wagner in just over half an hour, and he soon realized his skills as a painter of people and while he did not ignore landscapes completely, he decided to hire a model who herself ironically turned out to have quite an artistic talent herself.
He continued to paint the females in various poses and seemed to much prefer larger models whose plus size women’s clothing was often discarded in favour of the more natural appearance. Not for him the slim girl, almost under nourished. He wanted curves in his models hence his painting of his mistresses through the 1880s.
Renoir’s talent to capture the female form, with or without plus size women’s clothing was established and he painted many canvases of family life after marryng a former model in 1890. He also painted his wife’s cousin who was employed as a nanny for their three sons two of whom went on to be involved in the arts, but in film not canvas.
In later years, Renoir suffered from a form of arthritis and that caused him great discomfort. He had to bandage his hands, but once someone had put the paint brush in his hands, his talent was not diminished.
He and his great friend Monet produced paintings that grace many famous art galleries in the World. Monet had been a student of another French painter of the female form, Gustave Coubert but there is little evidence that Renoir was influenced by this controversial character who despite his innovation found himself at odds with authority on several occasions. Coubert died at the relatively early age of 58 in 1877 in Switzerland. He had painted from his own experience and often his canvases were a statement of social issues and politics hence he made a number of enemies who felt his paintings were vulgar.
Renoir painted over a thousand canvases, and in one location alone in Philadelphia, USA, there are almost two hundred. His style changed many times during his lifetime as he observed different techniques, one particular change of style coming early in the 1880s when he went to Italy and saw the paintings of the Renaissance where the tendency was for a more severe and disciplined technique.
But this change was another temporary move and he soon reverted to a lighter touch on his canvases.