Flânerie & Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Luncheon of the Boating Party. 1880–1881. Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. [Source: Miss.Ramos.Science]
Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Luncheon of the Boating Party. 1880–1881. Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. [Source: Miss.Ramos.Science]

In Susan Vreeland’s novel, Luncheon of the Boating Party, the character of actress Angèle Legault calls the throng of artist’s models together for their second sitting with a toast:

“Since this is to be a painting of la vie moderne, I propose that after a week of flânerie on the boulevards or in Montmartre or in the Bois or the cafes, we, the flâneurs and flâneuses of the Maison Fournaise each come back with a report of the most outrageously modern thing we saw.”

Acesart.com provides a dramatis personae to the subjects in Renoir’s painting, including portrait details and an identification key. Wikipedia summarizes the this source:

* The seamstress Aline Charigot, holding a dog, sits near the bottom left of the composition. Renoir would later marry her.

* Charles Ephrussi—wealthy amateur art historian, collector, and editor of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts—appears wearing a top hat in the background. The younger man to whom Ephrussi appears to be speaking, more casually attired in a brown coat and cap, may be Jules Laforgue, his personal secretary and also a poet and critic.

* Actress Ellen Andrée drinks from a glass in the center of the composition. Seated across from her is Baron Raoul Barbier.

* Placed within but peripheral to the party are the proprietor’s daughter Louise-Alphonsine Fournaise and her brother, Alphonse Fournaise, Jr., both sporting traditional straw boaters and appearing to the left side of the image. Alphonsine is the smiling woman leaning on the railing; Alphonse, who was responsible for the boat rental, is the leftmost figure.

* Also wearing boaters are figures appearing to be Renoir’s close friends Eugène Pierre Lestringez and Paul Lhote, himself an artist. Renoir depicts them flirting with the actress Jeanne Samary in the upper righthand corner of the painting.

* In the right foreground, Gustave Caillebotte wears a white boater’s shirt and flat-topped straw boater’s hat as he sits backwards in his chair next to actress Angèle Legault and journalist Adrien Maggiolo. An art patron, painter, and important figure in the impressionist circle, Caillebotte was also an avid boatman and drew on that subject for several works.

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5 Responses to Flânerie & Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”

  1. Sue Player says:

    This is one of my favorites. Renoir once said while working on this picture, “one must from time to time attempt things that are beyond one’s capacity.” Thankfully he made the attempt at what he (mistakenly) believed was beyond his capacity!

  2. Pingback: Remembering Proust’s Swann in “The Hare with Amber Eyes” - a blind flaneur

  3. mary zamorano says:

    i bought two plate collection with the picture ” the luncheon of the boating party” about 30 years ago
    are they worth anything? the other plate being “the girl with the watering can”

  4. Mark Willis says:

    Mary, the plates are worth the joy they have given you for 30 years.

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