Renoir was born at Limoges in 1841 and around the age of thirteen went to work as a decorator in a porcelain factory in Paris, while attending a school of drawing in the evenings. When the company failed as a result of competition from the new indus-trial system of mechanically printed decorations , he took up painting fans and waterproof cloth panels for missionaries in In-dochina and decorating Parisian bars and cafés. In the meantime Renoir frequented the Louvre to study the works of such masters as Rubens, Watteau, Fragonard and Boucher.
Then he enrolled in the painting courses held by Charles Gleyre, where he met other young artists like Sisley and Monet. Following the example of the Barbizon School, the group of friends made trips to the forest of Fontainebleau to paint from life. These were years of economic hardship, in which the artist sometimes did not even have enough money to buy paints and often had to stay with friends, years in which his oil paintings were more often re-jected than accepted at the Salon, but in which his enthusiasm never failed him, as his lively discussions with the circle of young painters who gath-ered around Manet at the Café Guerbois demonstrate. Impatient with excessively rigid theories, Renoir, a great admirer of Corot and Delacroix, also opposed their criticism of the study of the old masters. In 1865 he met Lise Trehot, who was to remain his favorite model for years, and in 1868 his Portrait of Lise with Umbrella was accepted by the Salon, the annual public exhibition for which works were selected by a board of members of the Academie Royale. The realistic treatment and concreteness of the works of this period clearly reflects the lesson of Courbet, but the study of variations in the effects of light captured with rapid brushstrokes that was to characterize the artist's later paintings is already beginning to emerge. In 1869 Renoir often went with Monet to work on the banks of the Seine, and both painted La Grenouillere (Bathers at La Grenouillere, La Grenouillere, La Grenouillere 1, La Grenouillere 2, La Grenouillere 3), a floating cabaret on the islet of Croissy: a representation of contem-porary life, of the fleeting moment, of the atmosphere that changes as the lights and reflections on the water change.
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