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Renoir painted several self portraits throughout has career as an artist, and famous works in this genre include Self Portrait in a White Hat and several works that are simply called Self Portrait
In some of these works, Renoir is a relatively young man, with a dark brown beard and hair, a smart brown suit and a jaunty gaze.
Self Portrait II is a key example of one of these earlier depictions of Renoir. In later portraits, as Renoir approaches the end of his life (he died in 1919), his self portraits show him older, though still recognisable as the man in Self Portrait II, with a neat white beard and a similar taste in hats.
Aesthetically accomplished, Renoir's self portraits also function as historical documents as in lieu of an exhaustive series of photographs (though photographs of this artist do exist) they show us what he looked like throughout his long life (which spanned the period 1841-1919).
Self portraiture was very much in vogue amid the artists of Renoir's day. Monet, Van Gogh and Degas were just a few of the artists who painted famous self portraits. Indeed, Van Gogh's portrait of himself shortly after cutting off his own ear, with the injured place on his head covered in a thick white pad and bandaged, is one of the most iconic images in Western art.
Photographs of Renoir do exist, indeed, he lived in an era of intense experimentation with the still relatively new photographic medium. However, Renoir's self portraits, including Self Portrait II, convey something that the relatively stiff and formal photos that are generally available to us cannot: the warmth and vibrancy of his inner life.
As is characteristic of his oeuvre, in Self Portrait II Renoir uses vibrant colours to add richness to the world of the painting. The oils are applied to the canvas with deliberate yet dynamic strokes: as with all of Renoir's paintings there is a real sense of life to Self Portrait II.
In some of Renoir's self portraits, he emphasises certain features, such as his very dark eyes which become pools of deep colour in Self Portrait II and also in many of his other works of self portraiture throughout his life. Renoir was an artist who also loved to paint fabrics and the rich textures of his garments are a pleasure to behold when we look at Self Portrait II.
Renoir was renowned for his ability to imbue even everyday fabrics with a kind of glow that makes them look warm and alive, and almost like a natural second skin belonging to the wearer. When one looks at the artist's coat in Self Portrait II, which is illuminated with highlighting brush strokes in lighter shades, this effect is very clear to see.