From this discipline, so contrary to his nature, Renoir was able to extract the best results in numerous canvases about 1895, notably in Les Grandes Baigneuses and The Braid. However, he did not long endure this constraint, under which his genius was visibly not developing normally, and reverted soon to his characteristic coloured texture. He returned to it with greater vigour than at the time of Impressionism. His experience left him with more self-confidence but, above all, with the capacity to be no longer strictly dominated by reality and to impose upon the subject treated the will of his creative genius.
With his last 'manner' one witnesses an unprecedented flowering. In a rediscovered unity of colour and line, volume and light, Renoir would untiringly sing woman's body, the centre of the universe, an ever-renewed creation of our desire. Nudes filled his landscapes to the point of occupying the whole canvas, and red, infinitely modulated, became the dominant colour in which all the others were consumed, in the same way that woman in her eternal youth would be born again every time in Gabrielle, his faithful servant and favourite model.
The compositions of this period are unusual in that under the appearance of total freedom they retain infinitely more will than those of Monet or Sisley, but more spontaneity and naturalness than those of Degas. Here Renoir has given the full measure of himself. These canvases achieved recognition very slowly, and even today many collectors consider them inferior to his earlier ones. It is certain that the big nudes that make up the essential part of his production after 1900 represent, when compared to works like La Loge or the Moulin de la Galette, an art much more difficult to accept, for, liberated of all constraint, the new manner proved capable of transcribing Renoir's feeling with a boldness that was not yet discernible at the time of Impressionism.
The choice of themes is in itself significant. Renoir was not afraid of giving up what had made his success; when his personality was beginning to assert itself in society portraits, he rejected this theme to tackle either group studies, nudes or still life, with which he could not be sure of conquering a new public. This attitude resulted more from his character than from in aesthetic doctrine. 'For me', he liked to say, 'a picture must be a pleasant thing, joyous and pretty -- yes, pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life for us to fabricate still more.'
It was inevitable that the physical pleasure in form and texture that Renoir felt to an intense degree and that made him, in his own words, 'pet a picture, stroke it with the hand', should draw him toward sculpture. This he undertook at a time when, unfortunately, physical disability no longer allowed him much suppleness. He secured the assistance of a young sculptor to work under his constant direction. The only sculpture entirely from his own hand is the portrait of his son Coco, which was executed about 1907-1908. Later works were done by the sculptor Richard Guino, but Renoir's authorship of them cannot be denied; not only do they reveal a close relationship of form and spirit with his painting, but also what Richard Guino executed out of Renoir's presence cannot compare with them. The large Venus and the large Washerwoman are masterful works that can take their place among the masterpieces of contemporary sculpture.
Renoir's is a happy art, for as a man he was without bitterness and without jealousy. His work obeyed an inner logic; it was in harmony with a perfectly balanced life able to accept itself at every moment of its development, even the most painful, when illness had deformed his limbs and in order to continue painting he was forced to have his brush tied to his wrist.
The impecunious young man he had been at the beginning, who had lived in Montmartre and met the young women of the quarter, nice working girls, models, with light heads and susceptible hearts, was to be received later in families of the Parisian haute bourgeoisie. But, in both cases, whether he painted the ball at the Moulin de la Galette, The Swing, The Canoeists' Lunch, or executed portraits he had been commissioned to do, it was first his own sensibility that he expressed, more than just the depiction of the sentimental atmosphere of his works, and, needless to say, it was to himself above all that he meant to be true.
Thus his emotions as a painter were in harmony with his feelings as a man and, as a result, an exemplary unity was established between his works, in spite of their differences. Neither was there a sharp break when he gave up too specific subjects almost entirely and preferred to paint bathing women with naked torsos in the innumerable portraits of Gabrielle, this being his own way of creating pure painting. For here again it is clear that love of painting and admiration for woman were indissolubly linked in him and were only the double aspect of his single passion for a clear and healthy life.
Auguste Renoir, Ball at the Moulin De La Galette, Young Girls on the River Bank, Impressionism, Girls Picking Flowers in a Meadow, Picking Flowers, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, The Apple Seller, Alice Gamby in the Garden, Young Girl Sitting in the Grass, Dance at Bougival, Little Algerian Girl, Reading Woman, Deux Soeurs, Alphonsine Fournaise at the Grenouillere, Young Girls at the Piano, L'Estaque, Yvonne et Jean, La Baigneuse, In the Luxembourg Gardens, Jeune Fille Blonde, Auguste Renoir Portraits, Dahlias, The Little Fisherwoman (Marthe Berard), The Excursionist, On the Terrace, Baigneuse Au Griffon, Bather with Griffon, Lady with a Parasol, The Pond at Fees, La Loge