Born in 1841, Renoir was a French painter, known for his vivid and warm paintings of interiors and the luminosity with which he endowed the skin of his sitters.
However, after travelling through the South of Europe and the North of Africa in 1882-3, his style shifted away from impressionism and became more disciplined and realist. Vase of Lilacs and Roses was painted prior to this shift, back in 1870.
It is one of Renoir's most famous works of art and nowadays prints of it can be seen adorning many people's homes, or used as a motif in interior design.
This is because, like so much of Renoir's work, Vase of Lilacs and Roses is highly amenable to the cosiness of the domestic interior. At the same time, it could be argued that the luminosity of the flower heads depicted in Vase of Lilacs and Roses is part and parcel of the very human luminosity mentioned above, which Renoir gave to the human subjects of his many oil portraits.
Indeed, in Vase of Lilacs and Roses the flowers themselves do seem to be dazzlingly alive.
Though the first Impressionist art exhibition did not take place until 1874, the influence of Impressionism was being felt throughout Europe when Renoir painted Vase of Lilacs and Roses four years previously. Impressionistic overtones in Vase of Lilacs and Roses include the vividness of the colours used and the blurriness of the lines.
Dynamic and filled with emotion, Vase of Lilacs and Roses has an everyday vase for its subject matter and yet it is at the same time a very bold piece. Even the walls behind the eponymous vase seem to be moving - or perhaps, there is supposed to be the sense of a light breeze that is casting darting shadows on those walls as the flower heads nod and scatter their scent far and wide.
Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh were both famous for capturing still life flowers during their careers. Cezanne contributed the likes of Still Life with Apples, The Basket of Apples and The Blue Vase. Van Gogh's famous artworks included Sunflowers, Almond Blossoms and Irises.
Still life painting has been a common genre for artists to turn to throughout the centuries. Vase of Lilacs and Roses falls into this genre, too. The setup for this painting is somewhat ambiguous, though. With some still life arrangements, it seems clear that the artist has carefully positioned a variety of disparate objects into a kind of diorama so that they can paint them into a still life picture - often such paintings have a symbolic theme such as memento mori.
However, with Vase of Lilacs and Roses it is unclear whether the vase has been carefully arranged or whether the artist stumbled across it somewhere in his home - or in the home of another. As a result, Vase of Lilacs and Roses is both artless and casual and highly mannered and accomplished.