At Renoir’s Home by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir (February 1841 – December 1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style.

He was born in Limoges but His family moved to Paris locating very near to the Louvre Museum. He would visit the museum and draw. At age 13, he apprenticed at a porcelain factory, which quickly bored him. However, the factory owner recognized Renoir’s talent and enrolled him in the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In 1958, the porcelain factory mechanized production, and Renoir was, in essence, laid off at age 17. While in art school, he met Alfred Sisley, Frederic Bazille, and Claude Monet, with whom he had a lifetime friendship. Monet and Renoir practice the art of en plein air or outdoor painting especially painting light and water (now called diffuse reflection).

He managed to sell a painting of his girlfriend, Lise Tréhot, his lover, three years after exhibiting his works in the Paris Salon. He studied Pissarro and Manet whom he joined to create an impressionist exhibition along with Monet, Sisley and Pissarro. Renoir had become disenchanted with the Paris Salon that continually rejected his work, so in 1874, he exhibited six works in the new Impressionist Exhibition. One of his art dealers, Durand-Ruel, began showing Renoir in London. The Paris Salon now accepted his work and Renoir became a success.

He met and worked with Eugene Delacroix and Diego Velazquez. He traveled to Italy and viewed the works of Titian and Raphael. He met composer Richard Wagner who commissioned a portrait. To recover from a severe bout of pneumonia he spent the summer of 1883 painting in Guernsey, off the coast of England, where he painted 15 landscapes a month (now commemorated in English postage stamps).

Renoir’s arthritis developed in 1892 severely affecting his ability to paint, but he continued to paint in a different technique. He was able to grasp a brush but had trouble standing and moving his shoulder. In 1919, Renoir visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with those of the old masters. Due to his limited joint mobility, Renoir also used a moving canvas, or picture roll, to facilitate painting large works.

At Renoir’s Home (also known as “Portraits” or “The Artist’s Studio”) was published just days after Renoir’s death. He died on December 3, 1919; this was printed on December 15, 1919. It is very scarce. This has Renoir’s “arthritic” signature in the bottom corner, signed during his lifetime. It is an original copper plate engraving. This is a first edition and only 375 examples were published by Vollard and Renoir’s family. It is beautifully framed and matted in a 19.5″ x 21″ gold frame. The image is 10″ x 12.75″.

Renoir’s portrait records an informal gathering of friends and colleagues at his home in Montmartre. The central figure holding a paperback and leading the discussion is Georges Rivière, an art critic and early biographer of Renoir. The bald, bearded man partially hidden to the right is Camille Pissarro, another member of the Impressionist group. Less certain are the names of the other three figures, who have been variously identified as painters, a writer, a philosopher, and a composer. Their pensive poses and expressions belie the spontaneous, animated brushwork Renoir used to describe them.

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