It was in 1868 that Renoir first discovered Chatou and he instantly fell in love with it. After discovering the Restaurant Fournaise, Renoir became a regular guest. During his career, the artist painted no less than thirty canvasses in Chatou - many in the restaurant itself and other of the proprietor's family and the surrounding areas.
Luncheon of the Boating Party was intended to replicate everyday modern life and Renoir was eager to display his work at the official Salon Des Arts. However, the famous collector Paul Durand-Ruel purchased the canvas for the 7th Impressionist Exhibition instead, despite Renoir's wishes.
Many art historians suggest that Luncheon of the Boating Party was a response to a challenge printed in the June review of the official Salon exhibition of 1880 by famous writer and critic Emile Zola. Zola condemned the Impressionists saying: "they show their works while incomplete, illogical, exaggerated... " Zola dared the Impressionists to produce more completed and complicated modern-day paintings and so it could be the case that Renoir's ambitious project with Luncheon of the Boating Party, its lengthy execution and detailed arrangement are a response to Zola's challenge.
Others believe that Renoir created this painting as a direct response to the disbanding of the 'brotherhood' of French Impressionist artists such as Renoir, Monet, Caillebotte, Pissaro, Sisley, Cezanne and Marisot. It was around this time that Degas declared that these artists could not contribute work to both the official Salon and the separate Impressionist show which resulted in Renoir, Monet, Sisley and Cezanne being excluded.
As well as this, Degas was introducing new, younger artists to the Impressionist movement and so it could be that Renoir was keen to reinforce his status as one of the movement's greatest painters and therefore set about working on this canvas.
There are many other possible inspirations for Luncheon of the Boating Party given the fact that Renoir was so passionate about his work and drew inspiration from a variety of sources. The artists' admiration for the history of art and the works exhibited in the Louvre in Paris continued to motivate him throughout his career.
It's likely that for Luncheon of the Boating Party Renoir was influenced by Paolo Veronese's grand banquet scene, The Marriage Feast at Cana (1562-63). Renoir's canvas resonates the vivacious event depicted in Veronese's work and there are similarities with both compositions, with both showing a rectangular table filled with guests that stretches out toward the viewer.
Another source of inspiration in the Louvre was Jean-Antoine Watteau's Embarkation for Cythera (1717). During the 1860s and 1870s eighteenth century Rococo was well-liked and it was apparent in many aspects of French culture, from fashion to music. Renoir was a great fan of Watteau's portrayal of stylish, cheerful occasions such as picnics of the Rococo festive parties (fetes galantes) and he also studied Watteau's skillful use of gesture in detail.
Renoir's admiration for such artists was evidence of his confidence in the value of French artistic tradition and his role within it. Luncheon of the Boating Party is a painting with a great deal of charm that captures the true spirit of this particular moment in time.
In his composition Renoir blended various traditional categories of painting; still life, landscape, portraiture and genre. The finished product is a timeless masterpiece that successfully conveys the enchanting atmosphere of the Maison Fournaise, where a group of friends relax and enjoy good food and conversation on a Sunday afternoon.
The Maison Fournaise (House of Fournaise) is a restaurant and museum located on the Île des Impressionnistes in the Seine in Chatou, west of Paris.
In 1857, Alphonse Fournaise bought land in Chatou to open a boat rental, restaurant, and small hotel for the new tourist trade.
Closed in 1906, the Maison Fournaise remained abandoned before being restored in 1990 on the initiative of the town of Chatou, with the assistance of American private funds from the Friends of French Art.
The restaurant was a favorite of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who painted scenes of the restaurant including Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise or The Rowers' Lunch (1875, Déjeuner chez Fournaise, Déjeuner au Restaurant Fournaise, Le Déjeuner au bord de la rivière, or Déjeuner des Rameurs) and Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881, Le déjeuner des canotiers) as well as several portraits of Fournaise family members and landscapes of the surrounding area.
Coordinates: 48°53′23″N2°09′48″E / 48.8896°N 2.1633°E / 48.8896; 2.1633
Maison Fournaise Restaurant