The French Impressionist ideals of outdoor scenes depicted with sparkling color and light are embodied in the early works of Renoir, who began his career as a painter in a porcelain factory. His later works, particularly his formal figure paintings of women, show a more disciplined approach and a break from contemporary themes to more timeless subjects.
In 1862, he entered the studio of Gleyre and formed lasting friendships with other Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet. He endured much hardship early in his career but achieved success as a portraitist in the late 1870s. After visiting Italy in 1881-82, he abandoned the Impressionist ideal and developed a softer and more supple kind of handling which is evident in his pictures of young girls in softly colored settings.
He is perhaps the best-loved of all the Impressionists for his cheerful subject matter - pretty children, flowers, lovely women - and their instant appeal. He once wrote, "Why shouldn't art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world." As a great worshiper of the female form, he mused, "I never think I have finished a nude until I think I could pinch it."
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Woman's Head, c.1876 appears in: