Luncheon of the Boating Party

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Le déjeuner des canotiers
Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Luncheon of the Boating Party - Google Art Project.jpg
ArtistPierre-Auguste Renoir
Year1880–1881
TypeOil on canvas
Dimensions129.9 cm × 172.7 cm (51 in × 68 in)
LocationThe Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
 
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Le déjeuner des canotiers
Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Luncheon of the Boating Party - Google Art Project.jpg
ArtistPierre-Auguste Renoir
Year1880–1881
TypeOil on canvas
Dimensions129.9 cm × 172.7 cm (51 in × 68 in)
LocationThe Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881, French: Le déjeuner des canotiers) is a painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. 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.[1] It is currently housed in The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. It shows a richness of form, a fluidity of brush stroke, and a flickering light.

Description[edit]

The painting depicts a group of Renoir's friends relaxing on a balcony at the Maison Fournaise along the Seine river in Chatou, France. The painter and art patron, Gustave Caillebotte, is seated in the lower right. Renoir's future wife, Aline Charigot, is in the foreground playing with a small dog. On the table is fruit and wine.

The diagonal of the railing serves to demarcate the two halves of the composition, one densely packed with figures, the other all but empty, save for the two figures of the proprietor's daughter Louise-Alphonsine Fournaise and her brother, Alphonse Fournaise, Jr, which are made prominent by this contrast. In this painting Renoir has captured a great deal of light. The main focus of light is coming from the large opening in the balcony, beside the large singleted man in the hat. The singlets of both men in the foreground and the table-cloth all work together to reflect this light and send it through the whole composition.

Subjects depicted[edit]

Detail of Ellen Andrée drinking from a glass in the center of the composition

As he often did in his paintings, Renoir included several of his friends in Luncheon of the Boating Party. Among them are the following:[2]

Cleaning controversy[edit]

The 1954 restoration by Sheldon and Caroline Keck of Luncheon of the Boating Party has generated a long-running controversy. The ArtWatch UK Journal 19 (Autumn 2002) [3] quoted the art critic Alexander Eliot's recollections as Time's art critic at the time, when he repaired one day to The Phillips Collection:

to revisit an especially beloved image: Renoir's 'Luncheon of the Boating Party'. I found that this sunnily celebratory masterpiece had been moved from its central position to a dark side room, as if in shame, and I could easily understand why. Its blossomy colours appeared dried out, droopy and half-awry. The seated figure in the foreground had been reduced to corpse grey. Barging angrily into Duncan Phillips' office, I asked for an explanation. Tears misted the old gentleman's eyes. 'Well,' he told me mournfully, 'I sent the picture to our mutual friends - you know the restorers I mean. The best in the business, right?' Mr Phillips paused to wave away an imaginary fly. 'I'd asked them to iron out a small blister on the surface and then forward the canvas to Paris for a major exhibition at the Louvre. Deciding that my prize acquisition needed cleaning, they went ahead with that. The people at the Louvre at first refused to accept the resultant ruin as a Renoir! Fortunately we were able to put them straight because our friends had taken the precaution of filming their work on the canvas. I have a copy of the film, which you're welcome to view. In it you'll notice actual colour-stains coming off on the cotton swabs. But please, for God's sake, don't report this tragedy. It's too dreadful.

The campaigning body ArtWatch International has drawn attention to the cleaning of this picture, which it regards as unnecessary and having resulted in a loss of tone. The ArtWatch UK Journal 22 (Autumn 2007) [4] quoted Sheldon Keck from his work 'Some Picture Cleaning Controversies: Past and Present' (1984):[5]

In the 1950s, Mrs Keck and I attended a dinner party where an internationally known British connoisseur attacked the cleaning of paintings in general insisting that artists counted on the mellowing effects of time to enhance the harmony of their designs and colours. He was perhaps unaware that he echoed a 300 year old contention. One of the other guests inquired whether the gentleman had viewed The Phillips Collection's Renoir 'Boating Party' since it had been cleaned (by us, as most of those around the table knew). 'It is ruined,' he said, 'ruined... the harmony of the whole has been destroyed, the glazes have all been stripped away... I stood in front of it and I wept.' Defence was undertaken by Mrs Keck and if she may have exceeded normal dinner party proprieties, her statements were eminently accurate. We had photographically documented the painting, even made a color movie of our cleaning, and every solvent swab used on the surface had been saved in large jars.

Popular culture references[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nicolas Pioch, WebMuseum, Paris
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ reprinted in the Journal number 22, qv.
  4. ^ at page 33
  5. ^ Keck, Sheldon (March 1984). "Some Picture Cleaning Controversies: Past and Present". Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 23 (2): 73–87. 
  6. ^ Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia: http://www.worldofepicmovies.net/edwardg.htm. Retrieved May 17, 2010
  7. ^ [2][dead link]

External links[edit]