RENOIR : THE MASTER IMPRESSIONIST PAINTER

Self-portrait at thirty-five,
1876
 Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 - 1919) was a French painter. He led the impressionist movement. The artists paint with colours, Renoir used 'emotions' as one of his colours; his speaking paintings are the witness of this fact. Like other Impressionists, Renoir also used unusual tonal colours to stir up moods and impressions. 

Under influence of Impressionism, the re-creation of objective reality was discouraged. It was replaced by the practice of developing subjective response instead of actual experience. 

PAINTING WITH PERSPECTIVE: The first understanding of the concept of this perspective drawing or painting came to the Italian artist of the 15th century. This concept was developed in Florence city. And Italian artist, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) wrote down this principle plainly based on mathematics. The name of the book he wrote was On Painting. We can see the best use of this principle of perspective painting and draw in the work done by the great artist Leonardo da Vinci. 

The Umbrellas Pierre-Auguste Renoir
National Gallery, Central London

The concept of the horizontal line and vanishing point was made alive on the canvas. The artists after Leonardo da Vinci applied this concept vigorously and more diligently. The Master artist like Renoir would put the focal point or vanishing point where he would prefer to and would drive the viewers’ eyes to that focal point.

Look at the painting The Umbrellas, here the ladies are walking on the street of Paris, carrying umbrellas. The lady on the left side is Suzanne Valadon, the favourite model of contemporary Paris. Renoir had infused liveliness in the painting by putting his best card, the Suzanne, on the front side. However, in the central portion of the painting, a lady is shown leaning at her child and telling her something. 

Renoir was a master artist in using the linear perspective. The artists work on flat surfaces, and the images painted on would be two dimensional. This technique allows a painter in constructing an appearance that would look just three dimensional. This technique has created a whole new culture in the field of art and architecture. European artists have used it since the fifteenth century.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Girls at the Piano Oil on  
canvas, Musee d'Orsay, 
Paris

The paintings by Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) give us the feeling of his favourite subject: depiction of the moment of time, here and now. Being the best-loved impressionist, he had painted beautiful scenes, pretty children, flowers, and women. His brush had a skill for depicting the faces he liked, describing the candid facial features. He had painted the youthful spirits and intimate charm of the models. 

The Art: Young women playing the piano was a recurring and favourite subject for Renoir. If the paintings are the witness of a culture, then the theme of painting young men and women involved in music was given allegorical treatment in French and Dutch art of the bygone years. But here in this painting The Girls at Piano (1892), Renoir had adopted a different subject, the subject of music. The music and love for the music in this painting was a symbolic image of the middle-class culture of contemporary France. The apparent theme of the painting seems to depict the cultivated innocence. It has shown the environment of the middle-class people’s domestic comfort, and these factors have strengthened the artist's work. 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Pont Neuf
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Painting Paris: Renoir formed warm by nuances of light and shadow that his brushstrokes put on the canvases. He painted the streets and roads in the city of Paris. He might have taken his brushes, canvases and stock of colours and gone to the open street to understand the daylight and recreate it onto his canvas.  

Here is a painting where he painted a scene in Paris. We can see the play of light. The brush of the impressionist artist was so authentic to put the near-real feel of the atmosphere. The use of blue and yellow colour help to make the painting so pleasant.

The Artist: Renoir was a master of the impressionist style, celebrating beauty from all the elements he might come across. His paintings are notable for vibrant light and saturated colour, focusing on people in candid composition, and fusing the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of colour. Renoir was considered the leader among the Impressionists. He earned that title for his portrayal of luminous colour, dexterously mixed brushstrokes.

La Parisienne ("The Blue Lady") 
OIl on canvas
National Museum Cardiff, Welsh

Theme: Impressionist painters honouring the tonal value of colours. Impressionism got its proper recognition during the second half of the nineteenth century. During this, the invention of photography occurred. It coincided with the new knowledge acquired in the field of properties of light and colour. Renoir, the leader among the Impressionists, had earned the leader's title for his portrayal of luminous colour, dexterously mixed brushstrokes and dexterous use of the total value of the colours. 

Look at the painting of The Parisian woman here. From her not-so-costly dress, we can assume that she belongs to the working class and not the well-to-do one. Renoir might have tried to keep the contrast of the tonal values of colours at a minimum, and the painting of warm light all over the frame had helped him in his purpose. The dark blue, possibly cobalt or ultramarine, used with full saturation makes the folds of the dress looking like a sculpture. The presence of visible brush marks helps to define the folds and texture of the fabric. It witnesses the artist’s prowess in using his brushes. In addition to that the presence of flooding light and the bright yellow colour on the woman’s face help to infuse the mood of a sunny day.

The artists who were working under the umbrella of impressionism lost no opportunity to use the new developments in the field of science. They made the benefits of the new inventions fruitful for the art of painting, and they used these inventions to help their aesthetic agenda. The artists painting in the impressionist style used their palettes to infuse the feeling of brilliancy in their paintings. They tried painting the element of immediacy with the factor of spontaneity and made their art pieces memorable till the day. 

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette Pierre-Auguste Renoir 
            OIl on canvas Musee d'Orsa, Paris

This painting, “Bal du Moulin de la Galette”, is considered Renoir’s one of the best artworks. In the year 1877, this painting was first shown at an Impressionists’ exhibition. Through this painting, Renoir wanted to paint the atmosphere itself. This painting was sold at a price of $78.1 million in 1990 at Sotheby, New York. If the price is adjusted at the 2019 level of prices it would amount to $152.8 million.

He wanted to convey all the vivaciousness and joyfulness of the party scene and the partying people. He chose the subject of a ‘fun party’ to create an atmosphere of contemporary Paris. His bias for painting cheerful men and women is seen here. Here the crowd of joyful people are depicted as bathing under a shower of natural and artificial light. It is believed that Renoir’s some friends are also in this garden party believed to be held at ‘Butt Montmarte’. Though the artist himself was present at this party, he is not shown among the participants. 

Light Effect: In the later phase of his creativity and in the last years of his life also, Renoir had cultivated a keen interest in classic art. He had done so while keeping his impressionist brush well in his hands. He thought more about the effect of light. During his last lap of life, he had concentrated on ensuring how the sunlight would affect the human models. He did experiments with this theory by painting various paintings. A large flock of models were at his disposal. He had painted several beautiful portraits adorning the charm of the human models sitting before him. If you wish to see the visual narrative; if you want to see the beauty of poetry painted on canvas; then a look at the paintings done by Renoir would be very much entertaining for your eyes. When we look at his figurative paintings on a wall of the museum, we feel that we are meeting a real person whose beauty is depicted.

The art sellers have made art prints of all of his paintings. These prints are suitable for a household woman's purse, too. People like to decorate their homes with the prints of the paintings by Renoir. Renoir was the painter of the period and he was fond of painting the happy side of life. He was extra careful in selecting the subjects, preferring those who reveal the joyous and carefree-ness of human life. 

FUNDAMENTALS OF PERSPECTIVE: Renoir was noted for his radiant, intimate paintings. He was like an orchestra player who would play a tiny piece of imagination to the highest decibel through his speaking canvases. The experienced critics of arts recognized him as one of the most individual painters of his period. In his time, most of the impressionist painters chose ‘landscape’ as their subject. Renoir was different in choosing subjects for his canvasses. He was as much interested in painting the single human figure or family group portraits as he was in landscapes. He believed that the effect of light was as important as the form and composition of a painting. Renoir made the style of impressionism more popular. The free movement of the painter’s arm with a brush in his hand and eyes on the object made this style more popular and satisfying. In this style of paintings, there were more margins for the artist’s point of view and angel of perception to be rendered. It was really a treat to catch the changing light and varying ambience virtually in no time. 

The Art of Impressionists: Fine Arts generally, found this theory of impressionism more suitable for its somewhat blur and sometimes vague objects. The impressionist painters told many things by reflecting light and incomplete forms, crafted through a quick range of short strokes of pure and bright colours they kept in their palates. Immediate visual impression, small strokes, partially modelled shapes, and the element of reflected light were the main characteristics of the paintings done by the impressionist artists. They applied unmixed primary colours and used the element of light and shade dexterously. While executing a painting, every artist takes care of various themes and their intellectual meanings. In the case of the impressionist, they care more about ‘visual significance’. They keep that aspect as their main motive. These artists feel happy and satisfied if they can reproduce the on-the-spot effects of the transient effects of sunlight or moonlight on the landscape. 

Vibrant colours and brushes loaded with colours were Renoir’s inseparable parts. Here the colours seem to be blurred a little bit. But as a whole, the painting holds an imposing format. Renoir was innovative in his style, and he had always nurtured a desire to paint such an imposing format. The master painter’s skilful handling had made this painting a masterpiece.
 [All the images are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons]
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