Sunday, 4 April 2010


“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.” - P.D. James

Happy Easter! We have had a lovely day, relaxing at home, enjoying the company of family and friends. The weather was perfect, an autumn day full of mild sunshine, and we spent a great deal of it in the garden. The jasmine perfumed the air and the zinnias were blooming wildly in the background. There was soft music playing and we broke our fast with a delicious lamb roast whilst sipping some delightful shiraz.

What better way to celebrate this glorious Easter Sunday than with a Renoir? His “Le déjeuner des canotiers” (Luncheon of the Boating Party) remains the best-known and most popular work of art at The Phillips Collection, in Washington DC, just as Duncan Phillips imagined it would be when he bought it in 1923. Each character in the painting has been identified. The woman playing with a dog is Aline Charigot (who would become the wife of Renoir); the painter Gustave Caillebotte is sitting in front of her; the man with a top hat is Charles Ephrussi (the editor of the Gazette des Beaux Arts) etc.

The painting captures an idyllic atmosphere as Renoir’s friends share food, wine, and conversation on a balcony overlooking the Seine at the Maison Fournaise restaurant in Chatou. Parisians flocked to the Maison Fournaise to rent rowing skiffs, eat a good meal, or stay the night. The painting also reflects the changing character of French society in the mid- to late 19th century. The restaurant welcomed customers of many classes, including businessmen, society women, artists, actresses, writers, critics, seamstresses, and shop girls. This diverse group embodied a new, modern, egalitarian Parisian society.

Renoir seems to have composed this complicated scene without advance studies or under-drawing. He also spent months making many changes to the canvas, painting the individual figures when his models were available, and adding the striped awning along the top edge. Nonetheless, Renoir retained the freshness of his vision, even as he revised, rearranged, and created a beautiful work of art.


  1. Sounds like a perfect day. Your garden sounds so appealing. One of the wines I buy frequently is a nice consistent Australian shiraz, Yellow Tail.

    I love this particular Renoir. I bought a print of it when visiting the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris.

    I enjoyed this post with visions of lovely social gatherings old and new.

  2. Happy Easter, Nic!!!!!
    What a wonderful day you have had!!
    The painting is so beautiful.....