The winter of 1867-68 was so bitterly cold that the River Seine in Paris was frozen over for eleven days in succession. Renoir and Bazille moved out of their shared studio at the end of 1867, and moved into one in the Batignolles district to the west of Montmartre. Renoir had work in the Spring too: a commission for ceiling decorations in the Paris home of Prince Georges Bibesco, for which he started painting watercolour studies. He also had a full-length portrait of his partner Lise Tréhot accepted for the Salon.
One of Renoir’s finest portraits of Lise Tréhot is In the Summer (The Bohemian), which he painted in 1868, when she would have been twenty. This is something of a puzzle, because that summer Lise was heavily pregnant. She and her sister Clémence (Jules le Coeur’s mistress) gave birth on the same day, 14 September. The following year, this painting was exhibited at the Salon.
Several of the Impressionists became fascinated by circus acts: Degas, for instance, by Miss Lala at the Fernando Circus (1879). Renoir’s interest preceded that by a decade, with this portrait of The Clown (1868) poised in the ring.
In the summer of 1869, Renoir lived at his parents house in Louveciennes, where the Pissarros were renting a house. He visited the Monets, who were living near Bougival, and often painted alongside Claude Monet. Some of the formative moments in Impressionism if not European art occurred when Monet and Renoir visited the popular bathing houses on the Seine known as La Grenouillère, most famously seen in Monet’s painting in the National Gallery in London.
Renoir painted at least three different views of La Grenouillère that summer: that above is now in Stockholm, and that below, which is most similar to Monet’s, is in the Oskar Reinhart Collection in Switzerland; the third (not shown here) is in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Originally conceived as plein air sketches preparatory to more finished paintings for submission to the Salon the following year, they came to define these brilliant shimmering images formed from high chroma brushstrokes as Impressionist style.
Renoir continued to enjoy modest success at the Salon. In 1870, he had two paintings accepted, a landscape with women, and Odalisque (1870), for which Lise Tréhot modelled. This was perhaps inspired by Delacroix’s orientalist paintings.
Unfortunately, shortly after the Salon, France was at war with Prussia, and the lives of all the Impressionists were thrown into turmoil. Renoir initially took refuge to the south of Paris, but in August was called up to serve in the south-west of France. By January 1871, he was gravely ill with dysentery, and was unable to rejoin his regiment until after the armistice. But Bazille was tragically killed in action, Sisley was trapped in Paris, and both Pissarro and Monet fled to London.
During the summer of 1871, Renoir completed the decorated ceilings for Prince Georges Bibesco, which had been commissioned back in 1868.
In early 1872, Renoir and Sisley painted together along the River Seine.
Probably the last of Renoir’s works to feature Lise Tréhot is his Parisiennes in Algerian Costume, or Harem from 1872, where she appears as the woman at the right.
Renoir never mentioned Tréhot in any recorded source, but he supported her financially throughout the rest of his life, and his dealer, Ambroise Vollard, continued to do so after his death. Renoir and Tréhot seem to have separated suddenly in 1872, and it is thought that they never met or spoke again after that. She married in 1883, raised her own family with her architect husband, and died in Paris in 1922.
Renoir painted several fine views of Paris after it had returned to normal following the Commune of 1871. Le Pont Neuf from 1872 is a good example, which is similar in many respects to Monet’s view of the same motif, and perhaps a sunnier precursor to Pissarro’s much later cityscapes. For this, Renoir is thought to have used a vantage point on the first floor of a wine merchant’s, and looks across the River Seine to the Ile de la Cité.
In 1873, Renoir painted in the company of Sisley during the Spring, and with Monet in the summer. However, his long and close friendship with Charles Le Coeur came to an abrupt end when Renoir made advances towards Le Coeur’s fifteen year-old daughter.
One of the products of Renoir’s painting with Monet was this highly chromatic view of The Duck Pond (1873) at a farm near Argenteuil. Renoir’s two canvases and Monet’s single painting are further seminal works in the development of Impressionism.
At the end of the year, in Renoir’s studio, the Impressionists formed the Société Anonyme des Artistes, which was to hold its first exhibition the following year, 1874, in Paris, at which Renoir exhibited seven paintings.
Shortly after Degas started painting dancers and scenes from the ballet, Renoir painted his Dancer (1874), but didn’t pursue the theme as doggedly as Degas.
During the summer of 1874, Renoir visited Argenteuil, where he painted in the company of both Monet and Manet. The Seine at Chatou (1874) is one of his more vigorously-crafted works, with a water surface similar to those being painted at the time by Sisley.
Renoir’s The Skiff of 1875 is one of several paintings of watersports which he made during this period. This work is unusual for his use of viridian as the main colour for the reeds in the left foreground, and of cobalt blue as his major blue pigment.
He continued to paint figurative works and portraits, such as this Woman at the Piano from 1875.
In the Spring of 1875, Renoir again painted cityscapes. These included one of his most atmospheric, showing the wide tree-lined streets of Haussmann’s new-look Paris, in The Grands Boulevards. This shows the area near the Gare St-Lazare and the Opéra with its trees in fresh leaf. This painting was bought by Count Armand Doria, who was becoming quite a collector of Renoir’s work: at the time of his death, the Count owned ten.