* 1841 Limoges
† 1919 Cagnes-sur-Mer
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's popular and prolific œuvre with its joyously idyllic pictures, graphics, pastels and sculptures has come to exemplify French Impressionism. The son of a tailor, he grew up in modest circumstances, beginning his career as a china painter in Paris, where his family had settled in 1854. From 1861 he frequented the atelier of the Swiss academic painter Charles Gleyre, where he met Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. He and Monet took the momentous decision in 1862 to paint in the open air in the Forest of Fontainebleau, where they encountered exponents of the Barbizon School. Renoir now began to model his work on that of Gustave Courbet und Eugène Delacroix while also continuing to explore new departures in painting, experiments that gave rise to his first Impressionist plein air work. As a founding member of a group formed by revolutionary young painters in 1873, he took part in exhibitions of Impressionist work which scandalised Paris. The decade that followed was the heyday of Impressionism, when Renoir, too, was at his zenith as painter totally committed to this style. Since the art dealer Durand-Ruel regularly bought his paintings, Renoir's financial situation improved so much that he was able to travel abroad for the first time, in 1881 to Algeria and Italy. In the 1880s Renoir strove to consolidate his sense of form and cultivated closed contours in the late classical manner of Ingres although he would return to a lighter, Impressionist style. After his marriage to Aline Charigot in 1885 and the birth of his sons, Renoir attended in numerous paintings, sculptures, pastels and drawings to the depiction of his family. Around 1900, when the artist reached the peak of his artistic career and a retrospective exhibition at the Autumn Salon in Paris (1904) consolidated his reputation, Renoir fell ill with gout. The artist withdrew to the South of France, mainly to Cannet and Cagnes, but he also managed to attain new heights in painting with his voluptuous handling of the young female nude. Enchantingly sensuous figures rendered in deftly casual brush strokes, they reveal the great debt owed by the late Renoir to Rococo. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who always presented man and nature from their joyously idyllic side died in Cagnes near Nice on 3 December 1919.