Renoir's early work reflects the tensions between conflicting conceptions of painting. His own point of departure was decorative porcelain painting. Subsequent influences include the realism of Gustave Courbet, the Barbizon school's plein air paintings, and the experience of all the paintings he studied as a frequent visitor to the Louvre.
Renoir's most important model during these early years was his lover, Lise Tréhot, with whom he had a relationship that lasted from 1865 to 1872. Lise posed for a series of major early works. This group constitutes a highlight of the exhibition, illustrating the range of Renoir's creativity during this first decade. All genres are included in the selection, with a preponderance of portraits and landscapes over the still lifes. Portraits of his friends and fellow artists such as Claude Monet and Frédéric Bazille form another distinct group.