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  • Martyn Daniels

Inspirational Artists: Pierre-Auguste Renoir


Renoir's paintings are notable for their vibrant use of light and shade and saturated colour. He is not afraid to capture a crowed bar, restaurant, and focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. Renoir suggested the details of a scene using colour to enable his figures to softly blend with one another and their surroundings. In the late 1860s, he and his friend Claude Monet discovered that the color of shadows is not brown or black, but the reflected color of the objects surrounding them, an effect known today as diffuse reflection. There are paintings in which Renoir and Monet worked side-by-side, depicting the same scenes (La Grenouillère, 1869).

Renoir's 1876 Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (Bal du moulin de la Galette) stands out as a work of complexity but one which captures Renoir at his best. The painting depicts an open-air scene, crowded with people at a popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre close to where he lived. The works of his early maturity were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling color and light. This to myself is his finest period and the one that offers the greatest inspiration to use bold colour.

By the mid-1880s, however, he was returning to a more classic style and 1890 he changed direction again. To dissolve outlines, as in his earlier work, he returned to thinly brushed color. From this period onward he concentrated on monumental nudes and domestic scenes, fine examples of which are Girls at the Piano, 1892, and Grandes Baigneuses, 1887. The latter painting is the most typical and successful of Renoir's late, abundantly fleshed nudes.

A prolific artist, he created several thousand paintings. The warm sensuality of Renoir's style made his paintings some of the most well-known and frequently reproduced works in the history of art. The single largest collection of his works, is at the Barnes Foundation, in Philadelphia.


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