Very few Impressionist paintings have been able to captivate a viewer than this masterpiece by a renowned French artist.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) became one of the leading Impressionist artists when he produced Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876).
He produced an equally stunning painting just 5 years later, a work that has been admired by his colleagues, viewers, and art collectors alike.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a painting with several remarkable stories to tell.
1. It was completed when Renoir was already a respected artist
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a young aspiring artist when he started submitting paintings for the Paris Salon in the 1860s.
When his works were continuously rejected, he changed his focus and joined forces with leading Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissaro.
The group of artists worked together to create the Impressionist exhibition which was held for the first time in April 1874.
His paintings are defined by a richness of form and fluid brushstrokes that stood out from other artists at the time.
He got his first major exhibition at the Paris Salon in 1879 with a work titled “Mme Charpentier and her Children” (1878) and this solidified his reputation as a renowned artist.
He completed the Luncheon of the Boating Party in 1881, shortly after he earned his breakthrough.
2. It depicts a group of the artist’s friends inside a restaurant on the Seine
The painting depicts a group of Renoir’s friends who are having a great time at the Maison Fournaise restaurant.
They are seated on the balcony of the restaurant which is located right on the banks of the Seine River in Chatou. This is a neighborhood in the western part of Paris.
The painting features a distinctive source of light that appears to come from the main opening on the balcony. It illuminates all elements that are on the table.
The other remarkable feature of this painting is that it combines several different elements into one work. There are portraits of a large number of people, a landscape in the background, and still-life on the table.
3. The restaurant still exists today near the “Île des Impressionnistes”
One of the most remarkable facts about the Luncheon of the Boating Party is that the Maison Fournaise in which the scene takes place still exists today.
It’s both a restaurant and a museum today and is located on the Île des Impressionnistes, a very long river island of the Seine.
It comprises the southern part of the Île de Chatou and was named as such because it was so popular with Impressionist artists.
Especially Renoir seemed to have liked this place as it was featured in several other of his paintings, including Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (1879) and several portraits of the Fouranise family who operated the business.
4. Another famous Impressionist artist is seated in the bottom right corner
The owner’s daughter and son, Louise-Alphonsine Fournaise and Alphonse Fournaise, Jr., are the people who are balancing on the railing to the left.
Various other figures have been identified, including friends of the artist and several women who served as his models.
The best-known person in the painting is the young man sitting in the utmost bottom right corner of the work. This is Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), another Impressionist artist.
Caillebotte was very interested in photography and it’s reflected in his paintings. This includes his masterpiece “Paris Street, Rainy Day” (1877) which is part of the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
5. Renoir”s future wife wasn’t intended to be included in the painting
Another remarkable figure in the painting is the woman on the left who is playing with a dog identified as an affenpinscher.
She is Aline Charigot (1859-1915), the future wife of Renoir who served as his model in numerous paintings. The couple married on April 14, 1890, and they had three sons together.
What’s fascinating about the fact that Aline is depicted is that there was initially another woman modeling. Renoir was annoyed with her so she was replaced by his future wife.
6. Renoir was possibly inspired by a work by a 16th-century Venetian master
Renoir grew up in the family’s home at the Rue d’Argenteuil. This street is located in the heart of Paris, not too far away from the Louvre Museum.
The young Pierre-Auguste studied the collection at the Louvre often and was especially intrigued by the paintings of Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), the Venetian master of the Mannerist era who is known as a supreme colorist.
A painting that Renoir had admired since is called “The Wedding at Cana” (1563), a monumental work of art depicting an incredible banquet scene.
It’s assumed that Renoir was inspired by this fascinating painting to produce the Luncheon of the Boating Party.
7. The painting was instantly admired when it was exhibited in 1882
The Impressionists, in general, were not very much liked by the academic art critics. This made Pierre-Auguste Renoir one of the exceptions.
His paintings were usually praised by art critics and this was the same for Luncheon of the Boating Party. It was exhibited at the 7th edition of the Impressionist Exhibition in 1882.
8. Critics weren’t the only people who have praised this masterpiece
An American actor named Edward G. Robinson (1893-1973) was one of the admirers of the painters when it was already on display in a museum.
He adored the work so much that he once spoke the famous words:
For over thirty years I made periodic visits to Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party in a Washington museum, and stood before that magnificent masterpiece hour after hour, day after day, plotting ways to steal it.
9. How big is Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir?
The painting is about the same size as his famous Dance at the Moulin de la Galette but doesn’t come close to the monumental size on which it was presumably inspired.
After all, The Wedding at Cana has dimensions of 6.77 × 9.94 meters (267 × 391 inches) which is hard to beat.
The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir is an oil on canvas painting that has dimensions of 129.9 × 172.7 centimeters (51 × 68 inches).
10. Where is the painting located today?
The painting is often referred to as “One of the most famous French paintings of modern times.” With this in mind, American industrialist and art collector Duncan Phillips (1886-1966) went on a quest to acquire the painting.
It took about a decade before he was finally able to purchase it in 1923 for the hefty sum of $125,000. That’s the equivalent of over $2.1 million today!
It has become one of the most fascinating attractions of the Phillips Collection, a museum established by Duncan Phillips and his wife Marjorie Acker Phillips in 1921.
This museum is located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and it’s here that you can admire Renoir’s amazing painting today.