Painted in 1881, Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party is one of the crowning glories of Impressionist paintings. Described by Duncan Phillips, founder of the Phillips Collection, as “one of the greatest paintings in the world,” it remains one of the most visited and discussed artworks of all time.
Created for the 7th Impressionist Exhibition held in 1882, Renoir painted this epic oil on canvas painting to cement his reputation as a rising Impressionist artist. The painting was awarded “Best in Show” by three independent art critics and immediately purchased by Paul Durand-Ruel, the avant-garde Parisian art dealer, for $125,000. Pierre Auguste Renoir's famous painting quickly assumed legendary status.
Luncheon of the Boating Party is celebrated amongst famous Renoir paintings for its technical proficiency and vivid storytelling. His famous painting focuses on flickering, shifting light depicted with fleeting, fluid brushstrokes. Light streams in from the balcony opening, reflected particularly from the white shirts and rumpled tablecloths. Rather than carefully delineated outlines, the painting relies on contrasts of color and shape to build a scene full of interest and movement. Renoir's oil painting shows a group of friends socializing on the Maison Fournaise restaurant balcony. Scenically located along the river Seine in the suburbs of western Paris, the restaurant is still a popular haunt.
All the figures in The Luncheon of the Boating Party are identifiable with reasonable certainty. They are mostly friends of the artist.
Despite the long scholarship on their exact identities, the specifics of Renoir’s sitters are not integral to the meaning of the paintings. Renoir aimed to immortalize the sitters as representatives of contemporary society rather than individual character sketches.
Amongst Renoir's artwork, Luncheon of the Boating Party is particularly hard to define in terms of genre. Some class it as an impressionist landscape painting. Others argue it is best appreciated as a modern Genre painting or a simple group portrait.
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