Alexandre Renoir has very big shoes — or certainly a big canvas — to fill. An accomplished painter in his own right, he is the great-grandson of the great French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. And filling those shoes he is —by being one of the featured artists at the LaMantia Gallery in Northport when the gallery presents “Visions of Impressionism” on Oct. 14, 15 and 16.
Renoir was born on July 7, 1974 in Cagnes Sur Mer in the south of France. His hometown was also the retreat and final home of his famed great-grandfather. When he was 4, the family moved to Canada to pursue other opportunities, but he was still surrounded by the arts. (His famous family includes film director Jean Renoir, actor Pierre Renoir, director of photography Claude Renoir Jr., and Claude’s daughter actress Sophie Renoir, to name a few.)
There are only two professional artists in the family because, Renoir said, in the 1920s, some of them went into what was then a new art form: cinematography. “My grandfather was a cinematographer, and my father as well,” he said. “My father would have been an actor, but he joined the resistance instead. He stayed in the art world with brokers, and then he wanted to move to Canada. But I thought, if your last name is Renoir, you have to try painting somehow.”
Renoir’s exposure to art began at a very young age. Always surrounded with art and artists, he was immersed in the family’s history and French culture. While drawing, sketching or creating, it was obvious that he was highly imaginative. His parents, seeing his creative abilities, decided he should be in art oriented schools and classes, which continued throughout his life and to this day.
The young Renoir went to various arts-oriented schools, including the Virginia Park School for the artistically gifted and the Victoria School for the Arts and Performance, from where he graduated in 1993. In addition to his formal education, he also attended classes at the Alberta Museum on Aboriginal Arts and Crafts, gaining further experience in jewelry making, sculpture, pottery, woodworking, stone carving, printmaking, and painting.
In 2004, Renoir was given the opportunity to pursue a full time career in painting by a prestigious gallerist and publisher in Beverly Hills, Ca.
“My brother is an art broker,” Renoir told Stepping Out. “He called to invite me to California for what I thought was a vacation. When I showed up at his home at about 11 p.m, he asked where my portfolio was. Of course, I hadn’t brought it with me [because] I thought I was on vacation! It seemed that he wanted to bring me to Los Angeles to show my work to a broker. So I found some charcoals and made sketches that night. ‘You did these all last night?’ they asked. This was my first ‘both feet in’ move, where before I had done galleries, cafés, and mostly gave my work away.”
And that was Renoir’s breakthrough moment. Finally realizing what he was always meant to do, he dove into this career with a passion. Over the last 12 years Renoir has traveled the world and appeared at many exhibits. Always sharpening his skills and evolving his work, he is now collected in over 14 countries by many prestigious clients.
The Renoir Impressionists
Although Renoir perceives himself as an impressionist painter, his style and technique is vastly different than that of his great-grandfather.
“It’s impressionism, but that as far as it goes. I use palette knives, so it’s more sculptural. “I hardly use a paint brush,” he said, adding that he has a more bold stroke, more like van Gogh. “It’s impasto painting, different. (Impasto is a technique used where paint is laid on an area of the surface very thickly, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas. When dry, impasto provides texture, and the paint appears to be coming out of the canvas.)
He creates bright and joyful works. Taking to heart his great-grandfather’s philosophy that “there are enough dark and ugly things in the world, I am not going to add any more,” the younger Renoir prefers to paint the joyful and serene things in life.
Coming to New York
Renoir has shown his works at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, and, he says, “there have been a few showings here and there. "Yes, I’ve been to New York … the best part about what I do is to get inspirations from the places that you go, and you have to keep your eyes open.” He mentioned that the four seasons in the northeast gives an artist quite a bit to paint. “There is so much to see,” he says.
Renoir lives and works in Southern California with his wife, Maria, son Felix and stepdaughter Julia. His art currently resides in private collections in numerous cities throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. His work was also featured in the Tennessee State Museum in the exhibition “Strokes of Genius.”
Visions of Impressionism
Learn more about the artist and how he carries on his great-grandfather’s legacy at LaMantia Gallery, which is featuring a wide-ranging collection of Renoir’s works. The exhibition will also include Pierre Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Joan Miro.
Visitors can meet some of the artists, who will appear there throughout the weekend. The exhibit is complimentary, with an RSVP, and open to the public.