Luncheon of the Boating Party (detail) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1881
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), celebrated as a founding member of the Impressionists, is also hailed by modern realists for his painterly technique and happy subjects. Renoir’s work reflected one central tenet: “To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful and pretty. …There are too many ugly things in life as it is without creating still more of them.” No stonebreakers or railway stations for him.
He reveled in lush color that can be seen in sensual nudes, family portraits, landscapes, and genre depictions such as The Luncheon of the Boating Party. As a successful artist he moved in circles that included other painters, including Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, and Cezanne, authors Zola and Mallarmé, and wealthy patrons whose support allowed him to follow his unique inspirations. He also served as a role model to younger contemporaries like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Art historian Bonita Billman showcases selections from Renoir’s prolific oeuvre—he painted more than 4,000 works—as she illustrates why he is one of the most highly regarded artists of his time.
Billman is retired from the department of art history at Georgetown University.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.