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 of Renoir, chronologically[edit]

chronologically arranged, after date of the quote
Les Parapluies (The Umbrellas) - 1883.
Jeunes filles au piano (Young Girls at the Piano) - 1892.
Les Baigneuses (The Bathers) - 1918-1919.


  • [ Bazille..] had not died romantically, galloping over a Delacroix' battlefield.. ..but stupidly, during the retreat, on a muddy road.. ..that pure-hearted gentle knight.. [quote, shortly after 1870, on the death of Bazille].
    • In: Renoir, my Father, Jean Renoir; p. 124; as quoted in The private lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe, Harpen Collins Publishers, New York 2006, p. 83 + 94

  • What are we supposed to do [reacting furiously on art-critic Jules Castagnary who proclaimed the so-called new School of Impressionism, 29 April 1874 in the Paris journal 'Le Siècle'] about these stupid literary people who will never understand that painting is a craft! You make it with materials, not ideas! The ideas come afterwards, when the painting is finished.
    • As quoted in The private lives of the Impressionists Sue Roe, Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 127

  • Alas I shall very probably not be able to dine with you [madame Charpentier who frequently had receptions in Paris which Renoir frequently visited]. I began a portrait this morning; I begin another this evening, and it is extremely likely that I shall have a third to do afterwards. If I have to stay for dinner, and begin tomorrow, all these people will go away, and my head is in a complete muddle with them.
    • in a letter to madame Charpentier, c. 1876; as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 80

  • 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.
    • (before 1880) As quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 176


Renoir – his life and work, 1975[edit]

Renoir – his life and work Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975

  • If I was accused of neglecting my art, or sacrificing my ideas for the sake of stupid ambition, then I would understand the critics; but as that isn't the case, there is nothing to be said. I sent a picture to the Salon for purely commercial reasons. Anyway, it is like some medicines – even if it does no good, it does no harm. [other impressionist artists then refused to send in their work to the Salon]
    • p. 128 : in a letter to art-dealer Durand-Ruel, March 1881

  • One day, while I was painting a landscape in the neighbourhood of Algiers [March 1881] 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 : quote on the illusion by sunlight, from Renoir et ses amis, Georges Riviere.

  • I'm struggling with flowering trees [in Spring 1881, shortly after his Algeria trip] and with women and children. I keep feeling regretful, all the same – I think of all the trouble I have given you for nothing, and I wonder how long you will put up with my womanish whims; and through all I keep seeing those pretty English girls [Duret invited him to visit England]. What a misfortune, always to be so undecided! But it's at the root of my character, and I'm too old to change.

  • ..I have suddenly become a traveler, and I am afflicted with a fever for seeing Raphael's. So I am in the process of swallowing up Italy. Now, I will be able to say straight out: 'Yes, sir. I have seen some Raphael's, I have seen Venice the Fair, etc'.
    • p. 159 : in a letter to madame Charpentier, Autumn 1881.

  • Shall I tell you what I have seen in Venice? Right – here goes. Take a boat along the Seine to the Quai des Orfevres, or opposite the Tuileries [Paris] and you will see Venice. For the Museums, go to the Louvre, For Veronese, go to the Louvre,- but not for Tiepolo, whom I didn't know; only it is a bit dear at the price. No – that isn't true; it is very, very beautiful, when the weather is fine. The lagoon and San Marco – splendid; the Doges' palace, splendid. As for the rest, I'd rather have Saint German l'Auxerrois.
    • p. 159-160 : in a letter to madame Charpentier, Autumn 1881.

  • 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.

  • 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 [back] 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 studied a good deal in the museum at Naples; the Pompeian paintings are extremely interesting from every aspect. So I am staying in the sun – not to paint portraits but while I am warming myself and looking hard at things I hope I will have acquired some of the grandeur ans simplicity of the old masters. Raphael didn't work out-of-doors, but he studied the sunlight all the same – his frescoes are full of it. So, by looking around outside, I have finished by seeing only the broad harmonies, and am no longer preoccupied with the little details, which only extinguish the sunlight, instead of increasing its brilliance. I hope therefore, when I get back to Paris, to produce something which will be the outcome of all these general studies, and to give you the benefit of them [in a letter written during his three-weeks-stay, working with Paul Cezanne at l'Estaque, near Marseille]
    • In a letter to madame Charpentier, l'Estaque, January 1882; as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 169

  • How wonderful the Doges' palace is! That pink and white marble must have been a bit cold at first, but it was magical for me, seeing it gilded by several centuries of sunlight! And the basilica of San Marco! That was what converted me from those cold Italian Renaissance churches.. ..as soon as one goes into San Marco one feels one is in a real place of worship – that gentle filtered light and those magnificent mosaics and the great Byzantine Christ with the grey aureole! If one hasn't been in San Marco it is impossible to imagine the beauty of heavy pillars and columns without any moulding!
    • p. 161-162 : (1882), in a letter to Vollard

  • I went to see this picture [Raphael's painting 'Madonna della Sedia' which Renoir saw in Florence in 1882] just to have a good laugh – and I found myself in front of the most wonderfully free, solid, simple, alive painting it is possible to imagine – arms and legs of real flesh, and what a touching expression of maternal tenderness.
    • p. 161-162 : (1882), in a letter to Vollard

- It [Raphael's art] really is fine, and I ought to have seen it all sooner. It is full of knowledge and wisdom. He [Raphael] wasn't trying to do the impossible, like me. But it's beautiful. I like Ingres better for oil painting. But the frescoes are admirable for simplicity and grandeur.

    • p. 163-164 : (1882) in a letter to Durand-Ruel

  • It [his participating in the 7th exhibition of the Impressionists, combined with showing his work on the official Salon] isn't exactly a joy, but as I have said, it lets me out of the revolutionary side of the business, which I'm nervous of.. .It's a little weakness which I hope will be forgiven me [by the other impressionists].. .Delacroix used to say, quite rightly, that a painter should win as many honours as possible.
    • In a letter to Durand-Ruel, end of February 1882; as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 172

  • 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 : (1886) Renoir's remark to Vollard [Renoir had been commissioned to portray Madame de Bonnieres in 1886].

  • 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 [Paris'] 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 : in his letter to Durand-Ruel (1880's), explaining his choice to participate in the yearly official Salon as well as in the Impressionist Exhibition in Paris, on the same time.

after 1900[edit]

  • I want to give something [a painting to museum The Luxembourg in Paris, c. 1910] I can't be sure of doing again. I could do ten more nudes like that one [a large nude painting, suggested by Georges Riviere], whenever I liked.. .This one turned out well. I don't think I'd be able to do that again.
    • a remark to George Riviere, (c. 1910); as quoted in Renoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 230

  • What wonderful things [Renoir is reacting on Corot's painting 'Interior of Chartres Cathedral' and Delacroix's 'Interior of M. de Mornay’s house', – he saw in 1919 from his wheelchair, in the reopened painting-rooms of the Louvre]. There isn’t a single big picture worth any more than these two little ones.. .The Director [of the Louvre] was so charming to me. I wish I could have thanked him properly. If you meet him, tell him how much I enjoyed my visit. If I'd presented myself at the Louvre in my wheelchair thirty years ago, they'd have shot me out fast enough! You see, one has to live a long time to see such changes. I've been one of the lucky ones. [December 1919, Renoir died]
    • InRenoir – his life and work, Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates /Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975, p. 237

  • 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...
    • quote from a letter written by Félix Fénéon, published in 'Le Bulletin des artistes' 15th December 1919
    • this quote is expressing Renoir's last painter-remark, 30 November 1919, three days before he died.

Quotes of Renoir, not chronologically[edit]

not chronologically arranged, after date of the quote

  • 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 painting 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. In a word, I was at an impasse
    • In: ‎'‎'Renoir‎'‎', by A. Vollard, Paris, 1920, p. 135; 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

  • ..not exactly prostitutes, but a class of unattached young women, characteristic of the Parisian scene before and after the Empire, changing lovers easily, satisfying any whim, going nonchalantly from a mansion in the Champs-Elyseées to a garret in the Batignolles. [describing the place w:Bain à la Grenouillère at Croissy-sur-Seine and the women there, where Renoir together with Monet painted in open air and used them as models in their paintings 'la Grenouillère', 1868-69]
    • as quoted in The private lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 59

  • 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

  • They tell you that a tree is only a combination of chemical elements. I prefer to believe that God created it, and that it is inhabited by a nymph.

Renoir – his life and work, 1975[edit]

Renoir – his life and work Francois Fosca, Book Club Associates / Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1975

  • He Corot 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.

  • 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 to Vollard, referring to his color-use.

  • I can manage very well with the first grubby backside [of the model] which comes along – provided I find a skin which takes the light well.
    • p. 150 : a quote from Vollard's book

  • What a charming girl! And what a skin! She positively radiated light around her.
    • p. 150 : Recalling the model Jeanne Samary.
  • 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.

  • w: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 French woman-artist of Paris Impressionism.

  • 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 : 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, because of 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 remark 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 : 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 : quote on painting flowers, to art-buyer George Riviere, who was watching a flower still-life of Renoir.

Quotes about Renoir[edit]

chronologically arranged, after date of the quote
  • I have a dream a picture of the bathing spot at the Grenouillere, for which I've made a few poor sketches, but it is a dream. Renoir, who has just spent two months here, also wants to do this painting.
    • Claude Monet (1869), in a letter to Frédéric Bazille, September 25, 1869; As cited in: Bonafoux (1986, 72), cited in Michael P. Farrell (2003) Collaborative Circles: Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work. p. 42

  • He [Renoir] 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, in 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 insist upon 'doing it alone'. Much as I enjoyed making the trip there with Renoir as a tourist, I'd find it hard to work there together. I have always worked better alone and from my own impressions.. .If he [Renoir] knew I was about to go, Renoir would doubtless want to join me and that would be equally disastrous for both of us. [Monet is painting then in Northern Italy then, on the edge of the Mediterranean.
    • Claude Monet, in a letter to his art-buyer Durand-Ruel in Paris, 1884; as quoted in: K.E. Sullivan. Monet: Discovering Art, Brockhampton press, London (2004), p. 51

  • 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, in 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

  • * If you could see what these flowers are. [Morandi is watching flowers in the corner of a reproduction of a painting by w:El Greco – beneath the feet of angels and saints]. No modern painter has painted flowers like these. Perhaps only Renoir.
    • a quote by Giorgio Morandi; as quoted in Morandi 1894 – 1964, ed: M. C. Bandera & R. Miracco, Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, 2008; p. 48

  • At Argenteuil [where Claude Monet had built a little wooden cabin on his studio-boat], he [Renoir] and Monet resumed their old habit of painting the same views seated side by side. Life was beginning to change for the better; 1872 seemed to be a year not only for recovery [of the war years] but also for putting down roots.
    • w:Sue Roe, in The private lives of the Impressionists, Harper-Collins Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 120

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