Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.
La loge (The Theater Box) - 1874.
Bal du moulin de la Galette (Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette) - 1876.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (25 February 18413 December 1919) was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style.

Quotes[edit]

Les Parapluies (The Umbrellas) - 1883.
Jeunes filles au piano (Young Girls at the Piano) - 1892.
Les Baigneuses (The Bathers) - 1918-1919.
  • There is something in painting which cannot be explained, and that something is the essential. You come to Nature with your theories, and she knocks them all flat.
    • As quoted in Masterpieces of painting from the National Gallery of Art (1944), p. 168
  • The pain passes but the beauty remains.
    • As quoted in: Instituto Nacional de Previsión (Spain) (1974). 6.o Congreso Internacional de Medicina Fisica: 2-6 julio 1974. p. 424
    • Renoir replied to Matisse, who had asked him why he persisted in painting at the expense of such torture.
  • ... to express himself well, the artist should be hidden... The trouble is that if an artist knows he has genius, he's done for. The only salvation is to work like a labourer, and not have delusions of grandeur.
    • Quoted in: Raymond Durgnat (1974) Jean Renoir: Raymond Durgnat, p. 370
  • For me, a picture must be a pleasant thing, joyous and pretty — yes, pretty. There are too many unpleasant things in life for us to fabricate still more.
    • As quoted in: Faber Birren (1965) History of color in painting: with new principles of color expression. p. 284-5
    • Alternative translation:
      To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.
      • As quoted in Luncheon of the Boating Party‎ (2007) by Susan Vreeland
  • The artist who uses the least of what is called imagination, will be the greatest!
    • Quoted in: Giles Auty (1977) The Art of Self-Deception: An Intelligible Guide, p. 88
  • About 1883 a kind of break occurred in my work. I had wrung Impressionism dry, and had come to the conclusion that I knew neither how to paint nor how to draw.
    • Renoir later to his dealer Vollard, as quoted in: Corinne Benicka (1980) Great modern masters. p. 130;
    • Benicka (1980) commented:
      The frescoes of Raphael and the Pompeian murals that he saw there definitely confirmed what Renoir had begun to feel about his own art; that it was becoming too amorphous in character and was weak in design.
  • What seems most significant to me about our movement is that we have freed painting from the importance of the subject. I am at liberty to paint flowers and call them flowers, without their needing to tell a story.
    • Quoted in: Charles Altieri (1989) Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry, p. 169: Talking about the movement of impressionism.
  • One morning one of us had runout of black; and that was the birth of Impressionism.
    • Klaus Honnef, ‎Ingo F. Walther, ‎Karl Ruhrberg (1998) Art of the 20th Century: Painting. p. 7
  • I would never have taken up painting if women did not have breasts.
    • Tibballs Geoff, ‎Geoff Tibballs (2012) The Mammoth Book of Comic Quotes, p. 80

Renoir – his life and work, 1975[edit]

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975

  • He was always surrounded by a crowd of fools and I didn't want to get caught up in it. I admired him from a distance.
    • p. 12 : Renoir’s remark to Vollard referring to the pre-impressionist landscape-painter Camille Corot.
  • It was a perpetual holiday – and what an assortment of people. You could still enjoy yourself in those days! Machinery didn't take up the whole of life; there was time for living, and we made the most of it.. ..I found as many magnificent girls to paint as I wanted; in those days one wasn’t reduced to following a little model around for an hour and then being treated as a disgusting old man at the end of it.
    • p. 28 : Renoir’s quote to Vollard referring to the Isle Grenouillere, where he painted in 1869, together with Monet.
  • People will keep on taking them for theorists, when all they wanted was to paint in gay, bright colours, like the old masters.
    • p. 64 : Renoir’s remark to Vollard referring to the Impressionist artists's Monet, Sisley and Pissarro.
  • They've found fault with me enough, in all conscience, for putting violet shadows on bodies.
    • p. 80 : Renoir’s remark to Vollard referring to his color-use.
  • There are scarcely fifteen art-collectors in Paris capable of liking a painter without the backing of the Salon. There are eighty thousands of them who wouldn't buy a thing from a painter who is not in the Salon. I am not going to be so foolish as to condemn a thing just because of where it happens to be. In short, I’m not going to waste my time bearing a grudge against the Salon – I don’t even want to look as if I do. To my mind, one must simply paint as well as one possibly can – and that’s all.
    • pp. 127-128 : quote by Renoir from his letter to Durand-Ruel explaining his his choice to participate in the yearly official Salon as well as in the then contemporary Impressionist Exhibition in Paris.
  • What a charming girl! And what a skin! She positively radiated light around her.
    • p. 150 : Recalling the model Jeanne Samary.
  • One day, while I was painting a landscape in the neighbourhood of Algiers I saw a man approaching who seemed to be dressed in purple and cloth-of-gold.. ..When the traveler reached me, my illusion vanished; my emir was nothing but a flea-bitten beggar. The sun, the divine sun had enriched him with its light.. ..It’s always the same in Algeria. The magic of the sun transmutes the palm-trees into gold, the water seems full of diamonds and men become the Kings from the East.
    • pp. 156-157; On the illusion by sunlight from Renoir et ses amis Georges Riviere. The painting of a landscape in the neighbourhood of Algiers was made March 1881.
  • What I like so much about Corot is that he can say everything with a bit of tree; and it was Corot himself that I found in the museum of Naples – in the simplicity of the work of Pompeii and the Egyptians. These priestesses in their silver-grey tunics are just like Corot’s nymphs.
    • p. 164 : quote from Renoir's letter to Durand-Ruell, 1882, referring to a small painting with trees of the landscape-painter Corot.
  • I am still going through an experimental stage. I’m not happy, and I keep scrubbing out and scrubbing out again. I hope this mania will pass.. ..I’m like the children at school; the clean page has to be filled with good writing, and splash – a mess! I’m still making messes and I’m forty years old.
    • p. 169 : quote from Renoir's letter to Durand-Ruel, 21st November 1881.
  • I wanted to tell you that in about 1883 there occurred a kind of break in my work. I had got to the end of 'Impressionism', and I had come to the conclusion that I didn't either how to paint or how to draw. In short, I had come to a dead end.
    • p. 175 ; Renoir's remark to Vollard.
  • Berthe Morisot was a painter full of eighteenth-century delicacy and grace; in a word, the last elegant and ‘feminine’ artists since Fragonard.
    • p. 175 ; Renoir’s remarks to Vollard, referring to the delicate painting-style of Berthe Morisot's, the only woman-artist in Paris Impressionism.
  • You know how I feel painting a skin which won’t take the light well. And on top of that, it was fashionable at the time for women to be pale, so Madame de Bonnieres was as pale as wax, you may be sure. I kept saying to myself ‘If only she could get a good steak inside her, just once!’... and her hands! She put them in water before the sitting, to accentuate their whiteness... Just imagine! I come across one of the most charming women it is possible to meet, and she doesn’t want to have any colour in her cheeks!
    • p. 175 ; Renoir’s remarks to Vollard. Renoir had been commissioned to portray Madame de Bonnieres in 1886.
  • Give me that palette.. ..those two woodcocks.. ..turn this one’s head to the left.. ..give me back my palette.. ..I can’t paint that beak.. ..Quick, some paint.. ..change the position of those woodcocks...
  • p. 175 : quote from a letter written by Félix Fénéon and published in 'Le Bulletin des artistes' 15th December 1919, expressing Renoir's last painter remark on 30 November 1919, three days before he died.
  • Out-of-doors there is a greater variety of light than in the studio, where the light is always the same. But that is just the trouble; one is carried away by the light, and besides, one can’t see what one is doing.
    • p. 176 ; Renoir’s remarks to Vollard. Renoir was referring to two of his landscapes, painted in the open air, having a different look in the studio light.
  • You haven’t time to think about the composition. In working directly from nature, the painter ends up by simply aiming at an effect, and not composing the picture at all; and he soon becomes monotonous.
    • p. 176 ; Renoir’s remarks to Vollard criticizing landscape painting in a direct way: loosing composition.
  • The so-called ‘discoveries’ of the Impressionists could not have been unknown to the old masters; and if they made no use of them, it was because all great artists have renounced the use of effects. And in simplifying nature, they made it all the greater.
    • p. 178 ; Renoir’s remarks to Vollard, criticizing the so-called 'new' discoveries by Impressionism.
  • Landscapes are useful to a figure painter, too; out-of-doors one uses colours one would never think of in the weaker studio light. But landscape painting is a thankless job; you waste half a day for the sake of one hour’s painting. You only finish one painting out of ten, because the weather keeps changing. You start work on a sunlight effect and it comes on to rain – or you had a few clouds in the sky, and the wind blows them away. It’s always the same story!
    • p. 196 : Renoir’s remark on painting landscape in open air, to art-buyer George Riviere.
  • It gives my brain a rest, painting flowers. I don’t feel the same tension as when I have a model in front of me. When I paint flowers, I put on colours and try out values boldly., without worrying about wasting a canvas. I wouldn't dare to do it with a figure; I’d be afraid of spoiling the whole thing. And the experience I gain this way is then applied to my pictures.
    • p. 196 : Renoir’s remark on painting flowers to art-buyer George Riviere, who was watching a flower still-life of Renoir.
  • Landscapes are useful to a figure painter, too; out-of-doors one uses colours one would never think of in the weaker studio light. But landscape painting is a thankless job; you waste half a day for the sake of one hour’s painting. You only finish one painting out of ten, because the weather keeps changing. You start work on a sunlight effect and it comes on to rain – or you had a few clouds in the sky, and the wind blows them away. It’s always the same story!
    • p. 196 : Renoir’s remark on landscape painting including the fast changing of day-light, to art-buyer George Riviere.

Quotes about Renoir[edit]

  • He has no talent at all, that boy! You, who are his friend, tell him please to give up painting.
  • Renoir is a great success on the Salon; I think he is ‘launched’. All the better! It’s a very hard life, being poor.
    • Camille Pissarro From a letter to Mr. Murer, 27th May 1879, as quoted in Renoir – his life and work Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 129.
  • I have had a long talk with Renoir. He admitted that the whole crowd – Durand and his former admirers – were shouting at him, deploring his attempt to abandon his ‘Romantic’ period. He seems very sensitive to what we think of his exhibition. I told him that as far as we were concerned, the search for unity should be the aim of every intelligent artist. – that even in spite of serious faults, it was more intelligent and artistic than wallowing in romanticism.
    • Camille Pissarro From a letter to his son, 14th May 1887, as quoted in "Renoir – his life and work", Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 189.

External links[edit]

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