(b, 1841, Limoges, d. 1919, Cagnes-sur-Mer)
The Luncheon of the Boating Party1881
Oil on canvas, 130 x 173 cm
Phillips Collection, Washington
In the 1881 painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party we have the crowning work in Renoir's series on social occasions and leisure. Renoir's old friend from military days, Baron Barbier, assembled the models for this festive scene at Fournaise's. The assembly of people dressed either for sport or as city pleasure-seekers resolves into small groups, couples or solo figures apparently lost in thought. The positioning of the figures gathers upon a diagonal line from bottom left to top right. It is this diagonal that arrests our gaze and leads us into the picture. But Renoir wants a unified surface impression, and so he also ensures that there is a greater ease in the foreground figures and their postures; together with the luscious still-life on the table, we feel we are in the presence of a superabundance of fine things, pleasant people and brilliant painting.