PARIS (Reuters) - A major exhibition on Renoir opening in Paris this week aims to bring a new perspective to the later works of the French master as his art evolved from the sun-dappled Impressionist style that made his name.
"Renoir in the 20th century," shows the artist as he focused increasingly on figure studies, notably massive female nudes that echoed both earlier painters like Titian and Rubens as well as a new generation including Pablo Picasso.
"The aim of the exhibition is to take a new look at the later period of Renoir, which is not very well appreciated but which is an integral part of his art," said Sophie Patry, chief curator of the exhibition.
"Renoir himself said he would have been incomplete as an artist if he had died at 50," she said.
The exhibition, expected to be a highlight of the Paris autumn cultural season, opens at the Grand Palais on September 23 and runs until January 4, before transferring to Los Angeles and Philadelphia in the United States.
It features many works in private hands around the world that are rarely shown and is the first comprehensive exhibition of the works of Renoir's later period since 1934.
Pierre Auguste Renoir was born in 1841 and together with others like Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Paul Cezanne, was a founder of the Impressionist style in the 1870s that transformed the treatment of light and form in European painting.
Renoir's Impressionist masterpieces like the "Bal du moulin de la Galette" are among his most famous and best-loved works but he moved away from the style in the 1880s, drawing his inspiration more and more from classical and 18th century art.
At the same time, he remained open to newer influences and the resonances with Picasso, a deep admirer of Renoir, are underlined by several paintings by the revolutionary Spanish artist interspersed throughout the exhibition.
The frail but lively Renoir is also seen in a brief sequence of film showing him smoking, talking animatedly and wielding a paintbrush in hands that were cruelly twisted by rheumatism in his later years.
Among the surprises of the exhibition are a number of sculptures the elderly Renoir produced in collaboration with younger artists who carried out the physical work that gave a new dimension to the shapes created by the artist on paper.#
Part of the exhibition is given over to portraits and the exhibition demonstrates his constant reworking of the same theme or form, culminating in "Les Baigneuses," a massive nude study completed shortly before Renoir died in 1919.
Renoir considered the painting, completed in constant pain, as one of his most important works and declared that he would not die until he had completed it, underlining the importance he attached to his later works.
"I am beginning to know how to paint," he wrote in 1913, six years before he died. "It's taken me more than 50 years of work and the result is still quite incomplete."
Editing by Paul Casciato