Producing thousands of paintings during his lifetime (1841-1919), Renoir was very much concerned with the female form. His paintings were often vibrant and colorful, and they often conveyed intimacy in great detail. But how does his work showcase his journey towards becoming one of the greatest impressionist artists of all time?
In his early years, Renoir was very influenced by the realism of Courbet and Manet, so he used a lot of black in his work. He, like most, also greatly admired Degas close observations and portrayal of movement (especially in dancers).
Perhaps the most prominent example of his work during this era is Diana, which he completed in 1867. Heavily influenced by Courbet, the painting is very naturalistic and clearly done in a studio.
But even if just the beginning of Renoir’s career the piece does showcase Renoir’s growing passion for the female form (in this case, the model was also his mistress and muse).
Together with Monet (his friend) Renoir in the late 1860s discovered the color in shadows of objects. They made this discovery when painting light and water in the open air (en plein air). In fact, one of the most famous works of Renoir is his 1876 Le Bal au Moulin de la Galette. This, like many others, is an open-air scenery filled with people in a dance garden. These outdoors, colorful and experimental with light type images, were very typical of his coming-of-age work.
When mid to late 1880s came, Renoir had started to break free from the free and exploratory movement to which he had previously devoted himself. Instead, he started to apply more discipline to his work. He applied a little more severity too, and his work became even more focused on women. A typical work that shows this is The Bathers, which of course came about between 1884-1887.
From there, Renoir started to go more and more severe. He even retreated back into drawing and outlining figures in an attempt that seemed to strive back to classicism.
The decade that followed, the 1890s, he changed again. He started using more colour and dissolving his outlines. He didn’t venture outdoors to where he started out though, but instead started turning towards the female subjects indoors – Girls at the Piano (1892) would be an example from his domestic motifs from this time.
Some may, however, argue that Renoir’s most famous piece came in his latest period, the Grandes Baigneuses (1918-19). These more fleshed our nudes were perhaps also the most typical of this late period.
Whatever your preference is among the thousands of pieces that Renoir produced (it may of course not be among any of those mentioned above) – it is perhaps his typically warm style and sensuality that has drawn you in and fascinated you. A style that was there throughout his life and his work.