Art & History

Luncheon of the Boating Party – Pierre-Auguste Renoir | [HR] Painting & Facts

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880–1881, French: Le déjeuner des canotiers) is a painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Included in the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition in 1882, it was identified as the best painting in the show by three critics. It was purchased from the artist by the dealer-patron Paul Durand-Ruel and bought in 1923 (for $125,000) from his son by Duncan Phillips. It is now in The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. It shows a richness of form, a fluidity of brush stroke, and a flickering light.

Facts About Painting

  • IT BREAKS FROM EARLY IMPRESSIONIST INTERESTS.

    In the early days of the Impressionist movement, city scenes were one of the dominant themes. By 1881, when Renoir finished the masterpiece, Impressionism was moving into new terrain, specifically the suburbs. The scene captured in Luncheon of the Boating Party takes place roughly a 30-minute train ride from the hubbub of Paris.

  • IT IS ONE OF RENOIR’S LARGEST PAINTINGS.

    Luncheon of the Boating Party measures in at 51 by 68 inches.

  • THE RESTAURANT CAN BE STILL BE VISITED TODAY.

    Maison Fournaise shuttered in 1906. But its historical importance inspired the people of Chatou to spearhead a restoration project in 1990 that brought the restaurant back to its former glory. It also now boasts a museum and a craft shop that celebrate its Impressionist heritage.

  • THE FOURNAISE FAMILY IS WELL-REPRESENTED.

    Alphonse Fournaise opened the pictured restaurant in 1860. Twenty years later, its grandeur would be captured along with his children, all of which were named for him. The lady draped over the terrace railing is Alphonsine Fournaise. Her brother Alphonse Fournaise, Jr. can be spotted leaning against that same rail in the lower left corner.

  • A NOTED BON VIVANT MAKES A SLY APPEARANCE IN THE WORK.

    In the painting, former mayor of colonial Saigon Baron Raoul Barbier—pictured wearing a bowler with his back to the viewer—flirts with Miss Fournaise.

  • LUNCHEON OF THE BOATING PARTY HIGHLIGHTS A SHIFT IN FRENCH SOCIETY.

    This mingling of men and women from different walks of life reflected how the divisions of class in French culture were dissolving to create the new bourgeoisie.

  • IT SHOWED A NEW APPRECIATION FOR DIMENSION AND DEFINITION.

    About four years before creating Luncheon of the Boating Party, Renoir painted a similarly ambitious scene set in Paris, Dance at Le moulin de la Galette. As with Luncheon of the Boating Party, the painting is set in a social setting on a sunny day, offering an intimate peek into the lives of French people. However, the open brushwork in this 1876 piece gives Dance a flatness that is rejected in Luncheon. Luncheon’s more defined borders and greater attention to contouring gives its subjects an almost 3D appearance.

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