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A leading Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the most famous artists of the early twentieth century.
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An innovative artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on February 25, 1841, in Limoges, France. He started out as an apprentice to a porcelain painter and studied drawing in his free time. After years as a struggling painter, Renoir helped launch an artistic movement called Impressionism in 1870s. He eventually became one of the most highly regarded artists of his time. He died in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, in 1919.
"I was a very diligent student; I ground away in the academic way . . . . But I never obtained the slightest honorable mention and my professors were unanimous in finding my painting wretched."
The son of a tailor and a seamstress, Pierre-Auguste Renoir came from humble beginnings. He was the couple's sixth child, but two of his older siblings died as infants. The family moved to Paris sometime between 1844 and 1846, living near the Louvre, a world-renowned art museum. He attended a local Catholic school.
As a teenager, Renoir became an apprentice to a porcelain painter. He learned to copy designs to decorate plates and other dishware. Before long, Renoir started doing other types of decorative painting to make a living. He also took free drawing classes at a city-sponsored art school, which was run by sculptor Louis-Denis Caillouette.
Using imitation as a learning tool, a nineteen-year-old Renoir started studying and copying some of the great works hanging at the Louvre. He then entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a famous art school, in 1862. Renoir also became a student of Charles Gleyre. At Gleyre's studio, Renoir soon befriended three other young artists: Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet, and Alfred Sisley. And through Monet, he met such emerging talents as Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne.
In 1864, Renoir won acceptance into the annual Paris Salon exhibit. There he showed the painting, "La Esmeralda," which was inspired by a character from Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris. The following year, Renoir again showed at the prestigious Salon, this time displaying a portrait of William Sisley, the wealthy father of artist Alfred Sisley.
While his Salon works helped raise his profile in the art world, Renoir had to struggle to make a living. He sought out commissions for portraits and often depended on the kindness of his friends, mentors, and patrons. The artist Jules Le Coeur and his family served as strong supporters of Renoir's for many years. Renoir also remained close to Monet, Bazille, and Sisley, sometimes staying at their homes or sharing their studios. According to many biographies, he seemed to have no fixed address during his early career.
Around 1867, Renoir met Lise Tréhot, a seamstress who became his model. She served as the model for such works as "Diana" (1867) and "Lise" (1867). The two also reportedly became romantically involved. According to some reports, she gave birth to his first child, a daughter named Jeanne, in 1870. Renoir never publicly acknowledged his daughter during his lifetime.
Renoir had to take a break from his work in 1870 when he was drafted into the army to serve in France's war against Germany. He was assigned to a cavalry unit, but he soon fell ill with dysentery.
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