The painting titled Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre Augusta Renoir was done in the year 1881. This painting was guided by real life models all of whom being Renoir’s friends who had gathered on the balcony of the Maison Fournaise , a boat commonly found in Chatou, France. The boat was floating along the Seine River and it apart from the roof, its balcony was basically open to an impressive view.
Pierre Augusta Renoir was an impressionist whose works mostly feature his close friends. The Luncheon of the Boating Party is no different and it includes approximately fourteen individuals. Some of the most prominent characters as from the painting include:
Gustave Caillebotte-this was a fellow artist and a close friend to Renoir. He later came to be the custodian of the painting. From the work, he is seated in the forefront wearing a white singlet. He was a revered impressionist and was also a determined boater.
Aline Charigot-this is the lady seated in the foreground wearing a black dress. In the painting she is playing with a small black dog. She would later get married to Renoir.
Charles Ephrussi– This was one of Renoir’s wealthy friends and he was an amateur art historian. He was also a collector and at times doubled up as the senior editor of a magazine called the Gazette des Beaux-Arts. In the painting, he is in the far background sporting a black top hat and, white shirt and a black coat.
Jules Laforgue– this was Ephrussi’s personal secretary who also happened to possess some poetic skills. He sometimes took on the role of an art critic. Though it has not been confirmed, he is suspected to be the young man dressed casually in a brown jacket and speaking to Ephrussi in the background.
In the middle of the composition is an actress known as Ellen Andree. She is the one drinking from a glass and she sits directly opposite Raoul Barbier; a baron who happened to be Renoir’s friend.
Louise-Alphonsine– she is positioned in the periphery of the composition, to the left of the painting and she has a traditional straw boater on her head. She is bent over the railing of the balcony, smiling and she is supporting her head in her right hand.
Alphonsine Fournaise, Jr.-This is Louise’s brother and he is standing next to his sister also wearing a traditional straw bloater. He is the one who took care of the boat rental he is the leftmost character in the painting.
Eugene Pierre Lestringez-he is wearing a boater and is positioned to the right of the composition in the right hand corner.
Paul Lhote-This was Lestringez’s close friend and he was also an artist. In the painting he is placed next to Lestringez and they both have been depicted flirting with Jeanne Samary-an actress.
The positioning of the artist was such that he was able to achieve a well balanced painting aside from capitalizing on the dispersion of light to obtain clear and appealing images. The light was also used to capture the mood of the event and Renoir made sure that he used all available reflectors to ensure that the painting was evenly lit.
From what we can pick out of the painting, the light mostly came from an opening to the side of the balcony. In order to ensure that the light was evenly spread across the entire composition, Renoir used the white singlets of the two men as well as the large tablecloth in the foreground to disperse it as per his requirements.
In order to obtain a well spaced composition and still illustrate the celebratory mood of the event, Renoir made an effort to ensure that he could get in as many characters as possible in the background and then put fewer individuals in the foreground. By so doing, the painting developed some element of space without making the party look empty.
As far as the usage of color is concerned, the artist made sure that white colors stood prominently in the foreground, middle-ground and background of the painting. This was contrasted by an almost uniform usage of black colors in order to avoid a bleaching effect. The usage of color in this painting is most impressive with the background having some lighter tones and the foreground bearing some darker shades bring about the element of distance from the balcony to the trees in the far background.
The mood of the painting is celebratory, with the artist trying to illustrate that characters presented in the composition were having a good time. aside from the strategic use of light and color, Renoir managed to lighten the mood of the scene by properly capturing the happy looks on the faces of the characters as well as ensure that the positioning of the characters was in such a way that it depicted some sense of interaction.
Personal involvement with the painting
Initially, my attention to the painting was almost drawn to focus on the three characters in the right foreground of the composition. At first I thought that the man wearing a white shirt and a black tie, and leaning in towards the two seated characters was a waiter taking an order. It is only after focusing on the literature and paying further attention to the entire scenario that I was able to figure out that this was a boat.
The lady playing with the dog (Aline Charigot), also captured my attention and I kept wondering why she had chosen to ignore the bulky man in a white singlet next to her, and instead focus her attention to the dog. After completing the assignment I was also in a position to notice more individuals in the background and even appreciate the various interactions at the time of the party.
I definitely agree with the book authors that participation and analysis enhance a viewer’s appreciation of art. This is because from the personal experience in this project, I was able to see much more from the work of art after I was done with the analysis than the first time I looked at the painting.
Artistic form, subject matter and content work together to send out the desire message of a composition. From this analytical experience, it is easy to notice how the three work together. The painting would not have relayed the same message had the colors and lighting been ignored or if Renoir had chosen to ignore the importance of balancing the subjects in the work.