Le Dejeuner des Canotiers / Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881, by Pierre August Renoir
Renoir was born in Limoges, France in 1841. His father was a French tailor. The family moved to Paris when he was 4 years old.
“Le Dejuener des Canotiers” (luncheon of the boating party) is a utopian rendition of Renoir’s friends eating on a balcony at the Maison Fournaise. The painter and his patron, Gustave Caillebotte, are seated in the lower right corner. Renoir's wife to be, Aline Charigot, is in the foreground playing with her dog.
Renoir was a very prolific painter, producing 6,000 paintings in his lifetime. He used his friends as his models. Other subjects in the painting include:
-Charles Ephrussi: a wealthy amateur art historian- in top hat in the background
-The younger man to whom Ephrussi speaking to- in a brown coat and cap - Jules Laforgue, Ephrussi’s secretary
-Actress Ellen Andrée drinks from a glass
-Across from her is the Baron Raoul Barbier
-Louise-Alphonsine Fournaise (leaning against the railing) and her brother (the boat owner), Alphonse Fournaise, Jr., both in boater hats – on the left side of the image.
- Renoir's friends, Eugène Pierre Lestringez and Paul L’hote (wearing boater hats)
-The men are flirting with actress Jeanne Samary
- Gustave Caillebotte (Art patron, artist and boater) is in a white boater's shirt and boater's hat. He sits backwards in his chair
-Actress Angèle Legault and journalist Adrien Maggiolo are beside Gustave
The diagonal of the railing separates the scene, one said is very busy, the other practically empty.
The light is coming from the opening in the balcony. The white undershirts of the men and the table-cloth reflect the incoming light and in turn light the whole scene. The atmosphere is jovial and happy.
In keeping with the Impressionist style; there is plenty of light in Le Dejuener de Canotiers. It is a happy portrayal of Renoir’s friends on a leisurely Sunday afternoon. In opposition to the scene portrayed in the painting, this was a time when Renoir’s work was being rejected by critics and he was bereft financially. In fact, he did not know when he began this major work if he had the financial resources finish it.
Renoir’s rendition of boaters / canotiers at lunch struck the perfect balance between Impressionist technique and the personalities being the focus of the painting.
The view of the River Seine; the perfect still-life of the fruit and wine; the poses and expressions of the party; Luncheon of the Boating Party is an Impressionist masterpiece.
Luncheon of the Boating Party is in the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.