The Story Behind Renoir’s Impressionist Masterpiece ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’

Who’s Who?

Like other large-scale paintings by Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party portrays a gathering of his friends and real-life acquaintances, including artists, actors, and even his future wife.

Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party

1. Aline Charigot

In 1880, French dressmaker Aline Charigot began modeling for Renoir. Though there was a nearly 15-year age difference between them, they had a child together in 1885 and were married five years later. Charigot continued to model for her husband until her untimely death in 1915.

Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir ‘By the Seashore’ (1883) (Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

2. Alphonse Fournaise Jr.

Alphonse Fournaise Jr. was the son of the Maison Fournaise’s founders. He assisted with the boat rentals.

3. Alphonsine Fournaise

Alphonsine Fournaise was the daughter of the restaurant’s owners. Renoir painted her portrait in 1879.

Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, ‘Alphonsine Fournaise’ (1879) (Photo: Musée d’Orsay via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

4. Baron Raoul Barbier

Baron Raoul Barbier was the former mayor of colonial Saigon. Known as a bon vivant (“one who lives well”), Renoir’s son Jean famously claimed that Barbier was “interested only in horses, women, and boats.”

5. Jules Laforgue

Jules Laforgue was a Symbolist poet.

6. Ellen Andrée

Ellen Andrée was a French actress who often posed for Renoir and other prolific painters, like Manet and Degas.

Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, ‘Ellen Andrée’ (1879)(Photo: The Philips Collection via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

7. Charles Ephrussi

Charles Ephrussi was an art critic, collector, and historian. He also co-founded and contributed to the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, a major art review in France.

8. Eugène-Pierre Lestringuez

Eugène-Pierre Lestringuez was an official at the Ministry of the Interior. Like many of his other friends, Lestringuez often modeled for Renoir.

Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, (Photo: The Athenaeum via Wiki Art Public Domain)

9. Paul Lhote

Paul Lhote was a fellow artist. He also appears in The Dance at Bougival, another well-known work by Renoir that features his friends in an outdoor setting.

Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, ‘The Dance at Bougival’ (1883) (Photo: Museum of Fine Arts Boston via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

10. Angèle Legault

Angèle Legault was a Parisian actress and flower vendor.

11. Adrien Maggiolo

Adrien Maggiolo was a journalist for Le Triboulet newspaper.

12. Gustave Caillebotte

Gustave Caillebotte was an artist and one of Renoir’s closest friends. Though associated with the Impressionist movement, Caillebotte painted in a much more realistic style than other Impressionists. In addition to painting, Caillebot enjoyed boating; he was even a member of the prestigious Sailing Club of Paris.

13. Jeanne Samar

Jeanne Samar was a distinguished French actress. She performed at the Comédie-Française, Paris’ premiere theatre.

Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, ‘Portrait of the Actress Jeanne Samary’ (1877) (Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Legacy

The piece was originally part of a private collection owned by French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. However, in 1923, it was purchased for $125,000 by Duncan Phillips, an American art collector at the forefront of modern art.

Since then, it has been a highlight of Washington DC’s Phillips Collection, the art museum that he founded. Until his death in 1966, the piece remained Phillips’ most prized painting. He—like many others—believed it to be “one of the greatest paintings in the world.”

Luncheon of the Boating Party

Related Articles:

How Flowers Blossomed Into One of Art History’s Most Popular Subjects

How Female Painter Mary Cassatt Became an Important Impressionist Figure

Why Post-Impressionist Painter Paul Cézanne Is Known as the “Father of Modern Art”

Over 2,000 Paintings by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masters Now Free Online

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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