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Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges in 1841 and brought up in Paris, where his family had settled in 1845. At sixteen, Renoir was apprenticed, decorating porcelain plates and vases with flowers. He then studied painting in Paris, and it was at the Academy that he met Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley.

In the 1870's, Renoir's Impressionism reached its peak. He worked in the outskirts of Paris, sometimes with Monet. Although they would paint the same scenes, it is easy to see that Renoir approached his subjects with a more fluid intensity. He painted people more than landscapes, and with considerable empathy for the sitters.

He went to Italy in the early 1880's, rejecting Impressionism upon his return for a style influenced by the old masters, employing more traditional composition, intense colors and brushwork of earlier works. Nude young women with lustrous, pearly color skin, single or in groups as bathers, were modern and traditional at the same time. His reputation spread by the middle of the decade, and he was especially popular with collectors in the United States.

Renoir is noted for his harmony of line, the brilliance of his color and his intimate charm. He was the Impressionist master most at ease painting women, and he was to become a strong influence on Pablo Picasso's paintings of the early 1920's.