Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born on 25 February 1841 in Limoges. He was the sixth child of Léonard Renoir (1799-1874) and Marguerite Merlet (1807-1896). In 1844 Renoir and his family moved to Paris where Léonard Renoir earned his living as a tailor.
In 1854 Renoir left school and began his apprenticeship as a porcelain painter at the firm of Lévy frères. His precocious talent for painting would assure his career as a porcelain painter but the firm went bankrupt in 1858. After that Renoir dabbled in a number of different jobs but it seems that he may have decided to become a full-time painter around this date.
On January 24 1860 Renoir was granted permission to copy in the Louvre, a practice that he maintained for the next four years. At this time Renoir had a taste for eighteenth-century masters, including Fragonard, Lancret, Watteau and above all Boucher. Boucher's Bath of Diana was the first painting that he adored and he continued to love it all his life.
By the following year, 1861, Renoir had begun attending the studio of Marc-Gabriel-Charles Gleyer, a Swiss teacher who offered practical instruction to a number of artists. At the same time Renoir enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and he was there from 1 April 1862 until a couple of years later. In 1863 Renoir may have submitted a work to the official Salon (an annual exhibition of paintings chosen by the jury) but if he did it seams that the jury refused it.
At the Salon the following year Renoir had his first success - the painting entitled Esmeralda Dancing with her Goat around a Fire Illuminating the Entire Crowd of Vagabonds, which he destroyed after the exhibition.
At the Gleyre's studio Renoir worked with other young artists with whom he had become friendly and these were the future Impressionist painters Claude Monet (1840-1924), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) and Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870).