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Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party

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Luncheon of the Boating Party is a European artwork painted in 1880-1881 by French Impressionist, Pierre Auguste Renoir. In traditional Impressionist style, Renoir depicted a scene from modern life and based it in a place he knew well – the Restaurant Fournaise. Chatou was one of Renoir’s beloved settings and Luncheon of the Boating Party is a romanticized portrait of his friends enjoying a Sunday afternoon on the balcony of the restaurant. His intention was to take a normal scene and create a modern day party that portrayed the youth and beauty of his friends. The arrangement of Luncheon of the Boating Party represents a relatively new Impressionist movement as well as the changing character of French society due to the industrial revolution. Renoir craftily uses shape, space, color and texture to create the scene he imagined. The figures and bottles add shape to the canvas and the overlapping of bodies gives a sense of space, giving this painting world-wide recognition. Particle-

Initially when I glanced at this portrait, I instinctively thought, “wealth.” The feel of the painting, to me, was warm and inviting, portrayed through the vibrant and crisp colors. A multitude of observations passed through my mind as I began to focus on the details of the painting. I became more aware of something deeper than that of a leisurely gathering. I noticed the mixing of the classes immediately according to the dress style, which led me to question the time frame of this picture having not known the date it was painted at the time. The gazes on the peoples’ faces, their focus, their lush surroundings, and strangely the only individual in the entire painting that was actually interacting was a woman sitting alone on the left side of the table. She is painted as if she is oblivious to her surroundings, the company, and completely absorbed in giving affection to a little wiry-haired dog that is perched on the fine linen table.

And too, it seemed that Renoir focused most detail on this woman. My mind continued to wonder about the occasion, was this upperclassmen and their servants? But even the men in the white tank tops with more flesh exposed, their hats are fine, and their body language is relaxed and do not portray that of a servant. I noticed the sail and row boats in the distance, the women surrounding the table; laughter, wine and company, and obvious friendship, but maybe also boredom. Was this a pre or post boating trip as the title hints? Was this painting staged, or maybe even a band and live music playing to the side? After closely looking over the portrait, what is most interesting to me is that contrary to the large number of people in the painting, no one’s gazes meet, showing no connections between the people, although most are smiling. Wave-

After doing research on this portrait, I find that the setting of Luncheon of the Boating Party is at the upstairs terrace of the Masion Fournaise restaurant on an island in the Seine at Chatou. The painting conveys a casual and contemporary gathering of people sharing food, wine, and conversation on a balcony overlooking the Seine. The people in Renoir’s paintings are actually personal friends of his. The woman in the lower left is Aline Charigot, Renoir’s future wife. Charigot was clearly painted with the most detail and coloring, and holds the most presence in the painting which could be a hint as to Renoir’s fancy of her. Standing behind her, leaning on the railing, is Alphonse Fournaise, the son of the restaurant’s owner.

In the center with his back turned is Baron Barbier, a personal friend of Renoir’s. The man with the top hat is Charles Ephrussi, a banker and amateur historian. Seated with the glass to her lips is Angele, a well-known artist’s model (Boardingham 3). Renoir painted Luncheon of the Boating Party in stages over a series of several months using layers to depict the models and scenery. The figures used are made to dominate the composition, placed across the width and height of the canvas. The detailing of their faces, limbs, and clothing are rendered with a weight that contrasts with delicate, feathery strokes of color that Renoir is most noted for (Boardingham 4). Using a variety of warm and cool colors, Renoir establishes a tonal structure that unifies the elements of his complex painting (Boardingham 6). Field-

For much of the twentieth century, French Impressionism was broadly defined as an art of objective, visual truth (Mancoff 1). Pictured are diverse classes gathered at the Maison Fournaise to rent rowing skiffs, eat a good meal, enjoy entertainment, or stay the night. The mixing of classes in the picture reflects the changing French social structure of the time as a result of the Industrial Revolution. This diverse group of rowers, women of higher social standing, working class women, waiters and upper class men embodies a new, modern society that continued to develop and advance the French Revolution’s promise of liberty, equality, and brotherhood (DeFur 7). Renoir was one of the founders of Impressionism, alongside Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Morisot, Guillemin, and Brazille (Mancoff 18). The Impressionist style of painting is characterized chiefly by concentration on the general impression produced by a scene or object and the use of light and color, and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light to dissolve form and soften focus (DeFur 11). Impressionist paintings are not only reflection of light and weather, but of the culture of the time.

Monet led the Impressionist movement by painting outdoor scenes and events. His art shows concern with the effects of light, atmosphere, bright colors, and often portrayed people in daily activities. Post Impressionism can be examined through the work of Van Gogh. He discovered a world of light and color that was strong, rebellious, and daring, and went beyond the colors of Impressionism (DeFur 3). When Impressionist painters banded together in 1874 to organize their first independent exhibition in Paris, the young impressionists shared, above all, a vision of truth in painting. Their approach encompassed naturalism based on close observation, the sensation produced by the landscape, their subjective vision, their temperament, femininity and freedom (Mancoff 12). By 1920, artistic discourse was taking shape that helped determine the critical features of Impressionism. During the harsh war years, Renoir saw his work devalued by critics. French landscape had acquired a new moral dimension through vivid memories of the trenches and battlefields. The new preference for images of rural villages had changed. After Renoir’s death in 1919, a series of exhibitions, critical notices, and monographs did much to restore and preserve Renoir’s reputation in French art circles (Mancoff 8). Conclusion-

Renoir’s painting Luncheon of the Boating Party holds a great place in art history. At a glance a person can see friends joining at a leisurely dinner sharing in great company. However, as the picture is observed more closely the viewer begins to see the diverse mixing of classes and will have a person begin to wonder about the actual happiness of the picture. Initially the painting will give a warm, inviting feeling, but when you notice the gazes on the people’s faces you begin to contemplate Renoir’s feelings towards the new social norm of the time period with intermixing of classes.

Works Cited-

Boardingham. Luncheon of the Boating Party. 30 January 2013. . Defur. Luncheon of the Boating Party. 30 January 2013. .
Mancoff, Debra. Paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 30 January 2013. .

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