Renoir’s family moved to Paris in 1844 and in 1854, at the age of 13, he was apprenticed to the porcelain maker M. Levy where his artistic skills enabled him to paint designs on fine china. Renoir’s ambition to become a professional painter led to his study of the Old Masters’ paintings at the Louvre. By 1861, he was a regular visitor to the studio of Swiss painter and teacher Charles Gleyre. At Gleyre’s studio he began working en plein air and met other painters including Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille and Claude Monet. He was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the spring of 1862.
In 1864, Renoir’s painting “La Esmeralda” was accepted by the Salon and the following year, his portrait of William Sisley was also accepted. From 1870-71 Renoir served in the Franco-Prussian war in the Tenth Cavalry Regiment.
After several rejections from the Salon in 1872 and 1873, Renoir joined a group of artists, headed by Monet, in the first Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. His works for this exhibition adopted a lighter palette with more delicate and expressive brush strokes. Renoir continued to exhibit at the second and third Impressionist Exhibitions but by the fourth in 1879-80, he returned to showing at the Salon, where he achieved great success.
In the mid-1880s, after traveling through Italy and working with Paul Cézanne in the South of France, Renoir experimented with more linear contours, thinner paint layers, and smoother brush strokes. This “Ingresque (dry) Period”, received a mixed reception and lasted for about six years. After this period, Renoir, favouring the achievements of the Old Masters and a more fluid style, returned to using broader brush strokes and more vibrant colors.
In 1890, Renoir married Aline Victorine Charigot, who had modeled for him, and with whom he already had a child – Pierre in 1885. He painted numerous scenes of his wife, their three children, and their daily family life.
By 1900, Renoir was an established artist. He became Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1900 and his international standing grew, especially in the United States. In 1904, he was honoured at the Salon d’Automne with a gallery devoted to his works.
After 1902, Renoir’s health declined and in 1907, he moved to the warmer climate of Cagnes-sur-Mer, close to the Mediterranean coast. From 1912 on he was confined by rheumatism to a wheelchair. He continued to paint and also tried sculpting in the last years of his life. To facilitate painting his larger works, Renoir used a moving canvas or picture roll to aid with his limited mobility.
In 1919, Renoir visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with the Old Masters. He died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, on December 3, 1919.