Style and technique
By nature Renoir was a restless soul and in this respect he was later to be compared to Watteau, one of his early influences. He was also highly impressionable. Unsympathetic analyses of his work held up the considerable influence of his contemporaries, firstly Monet and later Cezanne, as proof that he was ambivalent and confused as to his own identity as an artist. To a certain extend this is true, but his talent was both convincing and original, chiefly in his portrayal of the modern life of Paris for which he is most admired.
Renoir and his friendship with Monet
Monet's influence on Renoir, after long months working with him, had led to a brightening of his palette and more delicate brushwork.
During the late 1860s Renoir's style was at a crossroads. The rapidly executed "Scaters in the Bois de Boulogne" (Patineurs au Bois de Boulogne) of 1868 showing the marked influence of Monet, contrast with the sobriety of the touching double portrait of Sisley and his wife to be, "The Engaged Couple" (Les Fiances) of the same year.
In 1869 he worked side by side with Monet near to the river Bougival where Monet was living. Together they went o paint at the popular bathing establishments knows as Grenouillere (The Froggery). The two artists worked side by side at the same views with practically the same palette and brushstrokes. Renoir had tried to apply a great deal of Monet's approach - the short, rapid brushstrokes and high-keyed colors but in a more uncertain fashion. Renoir's approach to the subject concentrates more on the crowd of figures in the scene.
Renoir's "Pont Neuf" was one of his most impressionistic pictures to date; the briefly sketched-in figures highlighted with dabs of pure pigment betray the influence of Monet, as do the complementary colours blue-violet and yellow in the overall composition, and the bluish shadows, which create the effect of colour contrast in brilliant sunlight.
Renoir and the influence of Cezanne
1882 Renoir returned to France and joined Cezanne at L'Estaque in south of France, where the two went on landscape exhibition. He had also caught something of Cezanne's vision of the hidden structure of planes and lines in nature. The confusion of the diverse influence at work on Renoir can be seen in "The Umbrellas" (Les Parapluies), which shows him struggling to reconcile a linear style with Impressionist brushwork.
Renoir's interest on female forms
More importantly, in the mid-1880s there is a new concentration on the female nude as a vehicle for expressing light, colour and form. Renoir's fellow Impressionists and the dealer Durand-Ruel were mystified by the new linear style, but Renoir persisted in his experiments with a series of "Bathers" (Baigneuses) of 1887.
His interest in the female form had taken a new turn in 1885 when his mistress, Aline Charigot, bore his first son Pierre, prompting the artist to produce the Raphael-inspired "Maternity", developing the simplified theme of the "Bathers".
Renoir "sour period" as he called it, came to an end in the late 1880s. After a trip to Spain in 1882 he drew new inspiration from Velazquez. The insistence on line gradually softened but his concern with the human figure remained overwhelmingly important.