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Pierre-Auguste Renoir, il pittore felice.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the happy painter.




The proverb says that a good morning starts in the morning.

If so, part of the credit for Renoir's optimism and happiness would go to his mother who, choosing the name Pierre, added Auguste because "... too many r's in this name ...


His is the phrase: “For me, a painting must be something lovable, cheerful and beautiful; Yeah baby. There are already enough boring things in life without making any more of them. "


Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, a city in the middle of France in 1841. Father Léonard is a tailor and his mother Maurice Merlet works in a textile factory.

When Pierre was three, the family moved to Paris in search of greater fortune and they found a house near the Louvre, in rue dell’ Argentiuil.


From an early age he reveals his pleasure for figures, because he steals his dad's tailor's chalks and draws.


At school he showed talent for singing, so much so that the music teacher Charles Gounod wanted to direct him to musical studies, joining the San Rocco choir.

The income, however, is what it is, and at the age of 13 little Pierre has to leave his studies and help his family and goes to work in the Levy-Freres ceramic factory as a decorator.


For little Renoir it is a godsend: paid to paint! Of course, the subjects are always the same and Pierre fights boredom by sneaking in the Louvre whenever he can, to copy Rubens and the 18th century French painters.


The owner of the factory is very happy with Pierre, so much so that he commissions new subjects from him and advises his parents to let him study.

While Renoir begins to take lessons to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the porcelain company installs machines for the mechanical production of decorations and greets Pierre dearly leaving him at home.


Pierre Renoir, however, is a positive and does not lose heart. Find every job you can, from fan decorator to awning painter.

Meanwhile Renoir goes to class with the painter Charles Gleyre, a Swiss classicist who had taken over the studio of the French painter Paul Delaroche.


He was an attentive and influential teacher, he made the students participate in the management of the school and often postponed the payment of the tuition.

Right here Renoir met Monet, Bazille and Sisley and a very strong friendship was established between them which represented the foundations of the new movement, which would become famous all over the world: Impressionism.


In 1868 Renoir was 27 years old and a model-lover, Lise Trehot, who obviously became the protagonist of many of his paintings of that period and one of these, “Lisa with a parasol”, was finally exhibited at the Salon.


This arduous beginning was troubled by the Franco-Prussian War, where Pierre was struck by the great pain of losing his closest friend, Frédéric Bazille.

To make "cash" he offers himself as a portraitist and manages to get up to the first independent exhibition in 1874 which, as is well known, for the Impressionists was a disaster in terms of sales and appreciation, but not for Renoir: his works were welcomed relatively well.


He meets the dealer dealer Durand Ruel, the economic "mind" behind the Impressionists, who exhibits two Renoirs in London.


The game is done. Renoir is a fashionable painter.


Once he painted the portrait of Richard Wagner in just 35 minutes.

Now that he has the chance, he travels to Algeria, then to Spain to see Velázquez's painting and to Italy to see Titian and Raphael's paintings.


On his return he settles in Montmartre. His model is now Suzanne Valadonne, who was also the first female painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and her son was the famous, as unfortunate, Maurice Utrillo.


Valadon never revealed paternity and so the gossips thought that maybe Maurice's father was Renoir.

In 1890 Pierre August Renoir was almost 50 years old and met a seamstress (coincidentally the same job as his father and mother), Aline Victorine Charigot aged 29, and they got married.


They had three children; Pierre, Jean and Claude. The first became an actor, the second director and the third ceramist.


Unfortunately, rheumatoid arthritis affected Renoir mainly in the hands, but his character did not prevent him from continuing to paint. It is said that he had to tie the brushes to his hands, but in reality he only needed assistance to take the brush and put it in his hand.


And in this regard, here is a film from the period that shows us Pierre-August Renoir while he paints, assisted by the cousin of his wife Gabrielle Renard.


Shortly before ending his earthly life, Pierre-Auguste Renoir had one of the greatest satisfactions that can be imagined: seeing his paintings hanging in the Louvre next to the greatest masters of the history of art.


One of his last sentences are worthy of his character devoted to life and happiness: "Maybe now I'm starting to understand something!"


What we can understand is that a happy painter can really give so much and so much beauty.


In fact, to those who asked him if it was not painful to paint with his illness he replied: “the pain passes, the beauty remains”.


Andrea Giuseppe Fadini


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