Active during the second half of 19th century and early 20th century, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a prolific French artist who was among the leading painters of the art movement Impressionism. While his earlier artworks exhibit Impressionist qualities of vibrant colours and loose brushwork, he later distanced himself from the movement and drew inspiration from classical art. He is most known for his depictions of women, evolving Parisian society and domestic scenes; as well as nudes and dance paintings. Know about the art of Pierre-Auguste Renoir by studying his 10 most famous paintings including Impressionist masterpieces Luncheon of the Boating Party and Bal du moulin de la Galette.
#10 Two Sisters (On the Terrace)
French Title: Les Deux Soeurs (Sur la terrasse)
Maison Fournaise (House of Fournaise) is a restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, west of Paris. It serves as the location of not only this panting but another masterpiece by Renoir titled Luncheon of the Boating Party. The elder sister in the painting is Jeanne Darlot, who went on to become an actress. The identity of the younger sister remains unknown through it is stated that she is not related to Jeanne. The title Two Sisters was given to the painting by Renoir while the title On the Terrace was given by its first owner Paul Durand-Ruel.
#9 The Umbrellas
French Title: Les Parapluies
Year: 1881 – 1886
This painting depicts a busy street scene in Paris with most people using umbrellas to guard themselves against the rain. The Umbrellas is famous as it shows two phases of Renoir’s artistic career. It was painted in two parts. Renoir began to work on it around 1881 using the fast brushwork and vibrant shades of Impressionism. He returned to the painting in 1885 when he had lost interest in Impressionism and drew inspiration from classical art. The left side of the painting, particularly the principal female figure, has been painted in a more classical linear style with use of more muted colours.
#8 La Parisienne
English Title: The Blue Lady
The model for this famous artwork is Henriette Henriot, an actress at the Odéon theatre. When the painting was first exhibited at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, it was described as a failure by critics with one referring to her shoe as a little black mouse. But now it is among Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s most acclaimed paintings. Since becoming part of the collection of the National Museum of Wales in 1952, La Parisienne is one of the most iconic and popular exhibits of the museum; and has become one of Wale’s most prized artworks.
#7 Girls at the Piano
French Title: Jeunes filles au piano
Domestic scenes featured regularly in Renoir’s later works and young women playing the piano was a recurring and favourite subject for him. Renoir was invited by the French government to execute a painting for the Musée du Luxembourg and this masterpiece was a result of this commission. Renoir took extreme care for the project developing and refining the composition in a series of five canvases. Girls at the Piano, in which Renoir masterfully depicts an intimate and engaging scene in a middle class household, is considered the most successful in his series of artworks on domestic life.
#6 Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children
French Title: Madame Georges Charpentier et ses enfants
A wealthy publisher Georges Charpentier and his wife Marguérite took great interest in the art of Renoir. Georges commissioned this painting and it was displayed at the Salon in 1879. It was a breakthrough work for Renoir and brought him much attention and critical admiration. In the painting Marguérite Charpentier sits beside her three-year-old son Paul. Paul is dressed identically to his sister Georgette, perched on the family dog.
#5 Dance at Bougival
French Title: Bal à Bougival
Along with Dance in the City and Dance in the Country, this painting is part of a set of three paintings commissioned by Paul Durand-Ruel, one of Renoir´s greatest supporters. A primary attraction of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, it depicts two of Renoir’s friends, Suzanne Valadon and Paul Auguste Llhote. The panting shows the two waltzing and locked in a passionate embrace. It is considered one of Renoir’s first reversions to a more classical style of painting. Dance at Bougival is the most renowned of Renoir’s famed trio of 1883 dance paintings.
#4 La loge
English Title: The Theatre Box
This painting was Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s main exhibit at the first Impressionist exhibition in April 1874. It depicts a fashionable couple seated in the best seats at the theatre. Like many Impressionists, Renoir uses the loge to capture the changing nature of fashionable Parisian society but adds mystery through his narrative. The elegantly dressed woman has lowered her opera glasses possibly to reveal herself to admirers in the theatre while her companion raises his binoculars presumably to get a closer look at a beautiful woman. La loge is considered one of the masterpieces of Impressionism and is a major highlight of The Courtauld Gallery’s collection.
#3 Les Grandes Baigneuses
English Title: The Large Bathers
Year: 1884 – 1887
In the latter part of his career, Renoir concentrated on monumental nudes and domestic scenes. In this painting, which depicts a scene of nude women bathing, he gives a sculptural quality while the landscape behind them shimmers with impressionistic light. The models for the painting include his future wife Aline Charigot, the blonde sitting behind, and painter Suzanne Valadon, in the foreground. Renoir spent three years in perfecting Les Grandes Baigneuses and the masterpiece is the most renowned of Renoir’s late, abundantly fleshed nudes.
#2 Luncheon of the Boating Party
French Title: Le dejeuner des canotiers
Year: 1880 – 1881
Among the most famous paintings of not only Renoir but of the entire Impressionist movement, Luncheon of the Boating Party is known for its richness of form and masterful use of light. In it Renoir uses elements of design like balance and harmony; and rich colours characteristic of Impressionist style. The painting is a romanticized portrait of Renoir’s friends enjoying an afternoon on a balcony along the Seine River. Among them are Renoir’s future wife Aline Charigot and another famous Impressionist painter, Gustave Caillebotte. Actor Edward G. Robinson said that for thirty years he periodically visited this masterpiece and stared at it, thinking of ways to steal it.
#1 Dance at Le moulin de la Galette
French Title: Bal du moulin de la Galette
This painting depicts a typical Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette in the district of Montmartre in 19th Century Paris. Moulin de la Galette was an open-air dancehall and café, close to Renoir’s home and one he frequently visited. Pierre-Auguste Renoir reveals his true talent in the painting linking the art of collective portrait, still life, and landscape painting. His use of light as well as his fluidity of brushstrokes is typically Impressionistic. The canvas of the painting was unique as no artist before Renoir had created an image capturing an aspect of daily life of this magnitude. Bal du Le moulin de la Galette is one of Impressionism’s most celebrated masterpieces and has been described as “the most beautiful painting of the 19th century”. As of February 2016, a smaller version of this painting by Renoir stands at 13th place on the inflation adjusted list of the most expensive paintings ever sold.