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Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Skiff (La Yole)

This sunlit scene on the river Seine is typical of the imagery that has come to characterise Impressionism, and Renoir includes several familiar Impressionist motifs such as fashionably dressed women, a rowing boat, a sail boat, and a steam train crossing a bridge. The exact location has not been identified, but we are probably looking at the river near Chatou, some ten miles west of central Paris, which was a popular spot for recreational boating.

If Renoir’s choice of subject is characteristically Impressionist, this is also true of his painting technique. He creates an effect of summer heat and light by using bright unmixed paint directly from the tube and by avoiding black or earth tones. In placing the bright orange boat against the dark blue water, Renoir has deliberately used complementary colours, which become more intense when seen alongside each other.

We are probably looking at the river Seine near Chatou (some ten miles west of central Paris), although the exact site has not been identified. However, it is likely that Renoir was more interested in creating a generalised image of a summer’s day on the river than in producing an accurate topographical record. Although routinely dated to 1879–80, the picture was probably executed in 1875, the same year Renoir painted Luncheon at La Fournaise (Art Institute of Chicago), which has similar soft feathery brushstrokes.

Like Berthe Morisot’s Summer’s Day , painted a few years later, Renoir’s serene and sunlit picture of city-dwellers relaxing on the outskirts of Paris is typical of imagery that has come to characterise Impressionism. Boating was a popular subject for the Impressionists, and Renoir includes familiar Impressionist motifs such as the rowing boat itself (in fact, a skiff or small gig), a sailboat, a riverside villa, and a railway bridge (perhaps also a discrete reference to Monet’s interest in railways). The arrival of a steam train from Paris in the background underlines the easy access to the countryside.

If Renoir’s choice of subject is typically Impressionist, his painting technique – especially his use of colour – is perhaps even more so and is also central to his aim at this time of producing ‘modern’ pictures painted with recently introduced pigments. The picture, despite its appearance of spontaneity, evolved through distinct stages. Renoir conveys the shimmering play of light, particularly upon the water, by laying down a dense mesh of strokes, which are clearly distinct in the foreground and mid-distance but softer for the trees in the background.

As in Morisot’s painting, the distant treeline and thin band of sky are very close to the top of the canvas. This draws our attention to the surface of the canvas itself and undercuts traditional techniques of atmospheric recession into space. Instead, structure is created by a series of horizontals – notably, the boat and the river bank – which are offset by various features placed near the picture’s edges – for example, the white sail of the sailboat (whose hull repeats the red-orange of the rowing boat), the clump of reeds in the lower left corner, and the patch of sunlight under the bridge. The woman on the left, positioned almost dead centre and whose presence is emphasised by the diagonal line of the oar, functions as a linchpin for the whole composition.

Renoir roughly primed most of the canvas with white paint (the original pale brown canvas is clearly visible around the edges) to help create a light tone throughout, but the intensity of colour is achieved mainly by his juxtaposing areas of bright unmixed paint used directly from the tube. Many of these pigments had only recently become available and Renoir limits himself to lead white and seven other strong colours. He makes no use of black or of earth tones. Above all, the painting is dominated by the strong contrast between the orange of the boat (and its reflection) and the blues of the water. According to the colour theory developed in 1839 by the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, blue and orange are complementary colours, and when placed next to each other the intensity of each is enhanced.

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More paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

A Bather

15 Facts About Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party

By kristy puchko | feb 5, 2017.

Wikicommons // Public Domain

Luncheon of the Boating Party is one of  Pierre-Auguste Renoir 's most famous works. It's also one of the most well-known depictions of an alfresco lunch outing in art history. Set in a Paris cafe overlooking the Seine, the painting captures a joyous moment among friends. But the history around this iconic Impressionist work makes it all the richer.


In the early days of the Impressionist movement, city scenes were one of the dominant themes . By 1881, when Renoir finished the masterpiece, Impressionism was moving into new terrain, specifically the suburbs. The scene captured in Luncheon of the Boating Party  takes place roughly a 30-minute train ride from the hubbub of Paris.


About four years before creating Luncheon of the Boating Party , Renoir painted a similarly ambitious scene set in Paris, Dance at Le moulin de la Galette . As with Luncheon of the Boating Party , the painting is set in a social setting on a sunny day, offering an intimate peek into the lives of French people. However, the open brushwork in this 1876 piece gives Dance a flatness that is rejected in Luncheon . Luncheon' s more defined borders and greater attention to contouring gives its subjects an almost 3D appearance.


Luncheon of the Boating Party measures in at 51 by 68 inches.


The Maison Fournaise of Chatou overlooks the Seine River and was an adored destination for diners across class lines. As depicted in Luncheon of the Boating Party , businessmen, socialites, seamstresses, and artists were all frequent customers of this restaurant. Renoir had a fascination with the place, frequently painting there and recruiting models from its pretty patrons.


Maison Fournaise shuttered in 1906. But its historical importance inspired the people of Chatou to spearhead a restoration project in 1990 that brought the restaurant back to its former glory. It also now boasts a museum and a craft shop that celebrate its Impressionist heritage.


He called them to the Maison Fournaise to pose in person, perfecting each portrait one by one. Far at the back, in a top hat, sits noted art collector and historian  Charles Ephrussi . He is speaking with poet Jules Laforgue. To the right, Renoir's pals Eugène Pierre Lestringuez and Paul Lhote are presented flirting with renowned actress Jeanne Samary. Meanwhile, Renoir's affluent patron and fellow painter Gustave Caillebotte sits in the lower right corner, conversing with actress Angèle Legault and Italian journalist Adrien Maggiolo.


Seamstress by day and muse by night, Aline Charigot carried on a passionate romance with the Impressionist painter. The two had a child named Pierre in 1885 and officially wed in 1890. In the course of their relationship, Renoir repeatedly returned to capturing her beauty with works like Boating Couple , Madame Renoir With a Dog , and Motherhood .


Alphonse Fournaise opened the pictured restaurant in 1860. Twenty years later, its grandeur would be captured along with his children, all of which were named for him. The lady draped over the terrace railing is Alphonsine Fournaise. Her brother Alphonse Fournaise, Jr. can be spotted leaning against that same rail in the lower left corner.


In the painting, former mayor of colonial Saigon Baron Raoul Barbier—pictured wearing a bowler with his back to the viewer—flirts with Miss Fournaise.


Ellen Andrée stands out at the center of the painting. She is in the midst of a crowd yet isolated, talking to no one. The French actress is best remembered as a model for Impressionist masters, having appeared in Luncheon of the Boating Party , Édouard Manet's The Plum and Edgar Degas's controversial L'Absinthe . Her pose in the first also inspired a pivotal scene in the acclaimed 2001 French film Amelie .


This mingling of men and women from different walks of life reflected how the divisions of class in French culture were dissolving to create the new bourgeoisie.


Luncheon of the Boating Party debuted in 1882 at the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition, where three critics singled it out as the best piece in the show. Paul de Charry wrote in Le Pays , "It is fresh and free without being too bawdy," while Armand Silvestre declared it "one of the best things [Renoir] has painted…It is one of the most beautiful pieces that this insurrectionist art by Independent artist has produced."


For decades,  Luncheon of the Boating Party was part of the private collection of Renoir patron Paul Durand-Ruel. But following his death in 1922, Durand-Ruel's sons put the piece up for sale. It was quickly acquired by American art collector Duncan Phillips for $125,000. As founder of Washington D.C.'s The Phillips Collection—America's first museum of modern art—Phillips made it his mission to bring the evolving form to the United States. And he considered Luncheon of the Boating Party not just one of the gems of his collection but "one of the greatest paintings in the world."


In the wake of the deaths of his brother and father within a year of each other, Phillips attended an exhibition in New York City where he spotted Luncheon of the Boating Party . It moved him so profoundly that he became obsessed. He sailed  to France to secure its purchase, and spent his entire year's art-buying budget on this one work.

Legend has it that fellow collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes once said to Phillips, "That's the only Renoir you have, isn't it?" Phillips  replied , "It's the only one I need.”


During Hollywood's Golden Age, actor Edward G. Robinson was best known for playing gangsters in movies like Key Largo  (1948) and Little Caesar (1931). Off screen, he was a passionate art enthusiast, who famously said , "For over thirty years I made periodic visits to Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party in a Washington museum, and stood before that magnificent masterpiece hour after hour, day after day, plotting ways to steal it."

Luncheon of the Boating Party

Pierre-Auguste Renoir ( between 1880 and 1881 )

Collection item 1637

  • Location Goh Annex (1612) - Display, Gallery 201
  • Period Nineteenth-Century
  • Materials Oil on canvas
  • Object Number 1637
  • Dimensions 51 1/4 x 69 1/8 in.; 130.2 x 175.6 cm
  • Credit Line Acquired 1923

Shortly after confirming his purchase of the Luncheon of the Boating Party , Duncan Phillips wrote an enthusiastic letter from Paris informing his treasurer of the acquisition: “The Phillips Memorial Gallery is to be the possessor of one of the greatest paintings in the world … It will do more good in arousing interest and support for (the Phillips Memorial Gallery) than all the rest of our collection put together. Such a picture creates a sensation wherever it goes.” In an affirmation of Phillips’s foresight, these statements have proved themselves correct. The Luncheon of the Boating Party is undoubtedly among the most visited, commented upon, and memorable paintings in The Phillips Collection.

Most of the models in the painting, all friends of the artist, have been identified. In the right foreground, Angèle, one of Renoir’s frequent models, turns her head toward the standing Maggiolo, a journalist. The painter Gustave Caillebotte sits backward in his chair and stares across the table at Aline Charigot, Renoir’s future wife, who coos at her terrier, while the burly Alphonse Fournaise Jr., son of the restaurant’s owner, leans against the balcony’s railing surveying the scene. In the center, Baron Raoul Barbier, a former cavalry officer, is seated with his back to the viewer speaking to the woman resting on her elbows on the railing, who is thought to be Alphonsine Fournaise, the daughter of the proprietor. Across the table from Barbier is the actress Ellen Andrée, drinking from a glass. Behind her, the top-hatted Charles Ephrussi, a banker and editor of Gazette des beaux-arts , chats with Jules Laforgue, poet, critic, and Ephrussi’s personal secretary. In the upper right, Eugène Pierre Lestringuez, an official in the Ministry of the Interior, laughs with Jeanne Samary, a famous actress with the Comédie Française, while the artist Paul Lhote, a close friend of Renoir’s, cocks his head. Renoir has immortalized his friends to such a degree that the image is “not anectdotal but monumental.” Marjorie Phillips was inspired to write: “In the light of time it does not matter much who the figures are. They are every man, all people.” Renoir’s magnus opus is a very tightly composed work, uniting within one image the time-honored compositional traditions of figure painting, still life and landscape.

Hailed as “one of the most famous French paintings of modern times” when it was first exhibited, the Luncheon of the Boating Party was flanked by Alfred Sisley’s Snow at Louveciennes and Banks of the Seine at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in December 1923. At the time, Phillips had intentions of forming a unit of Renoir’s works; however, as the painting came to serve its purpose as a magnet attracting to the museum “pilgrims to pay homage from all over the civilized world,” Phillips realized that the Luncheon of the Boating Party was the only major work by the artist that he would need.

image for 2017-12-03-renoir-panel

Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party

The first exhibition to focus specifically on this singular masterwork

Signing the Phillips: Luncheon of the Boating Party


  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Style and Technique
  • Critical Reception
  • Claude Monet Reading a Newspaper
  • Clown in the Circus
  • Dance at Bougival
  • Dance at le Moulin de la Galette
  • Dance in the City
  • Dance in the Country
  • Le Grenouillere
  • Les Baigneuse
  • Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise
  • Story-Theme
  • Luncheon of the Boating Party
  • Madame Charpentier and Her Children
  • Monsieur Fournaise
  • Nude in the Sun
  • Portrait of Alphonsine Fournaise
  • Portrait of Ambroise Vollard
  • The Judgement of Paris
  • The Large Bathers
  • The Umbrellas
  • Two Girls Reading
  • Two Young Girls at the Piano
  • Woman Arranging her Hair

Luncheon of the Boating Party Analysis

Luncheon of the Boating Party

  • Date of Creation:
  • Alternative Names:
  • Le dejeuner des canotiers
  • Height (cm):
  • Length (cm):
  • Art Movement:
  • Impressionism
  • Created by:
  • Current Location:
  • Washington, District of Columbia
  • Displayed at:
  • Phillips Collection
  • Luncheon of the Boating Party Analysis Page's Content
  • Composition
  • Use of color
  • Use of Light
  • Mood, Tone and Emotion

Luncheon of the Boating Party Composition


Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Boat circa 1878

Oil on canvas 54,5 x 65,5 cm Museum Langmatt, Baden Inv.-no. 183

Is it possible to be inwardly absorbed in nature more intensively than in this picture? How could we possibly be more closely united with nature on such a small surface? In the midst of the dense foliage, a small, easily viewed expanse of water opens up, complete with a boat and passengers. We do not know whether or not the boat is in gentle movement. It may be as motionless as the woman in her white “Sunday” clothes who sits within it. She shows noticeable tension, bracing herself to left and right in her little cockleshell, uncertain. Also, we must not overlook the striking bare branch that extends transversely across virtually the full width of the picture, dividing into two twigs near the woman’s head, actually rising slightly and appearing to push the little boat, together with its passengers, imperceptibly into the jungle off to the right. Almost all of the other branches and twigs in this picture remain virtually invisible—even though there must be a fair number of them, given the quantity of leaves.

Renoir uses swift brushstrokes to fan out tufts of meadow grass, bushes, and trees to form an opulent and positively symphonic forest. In every location, the ever-present sunlight illuminates and backlights the foliage, causing it to flame with color, even though — apart from some marginal sections at the upper edge of the picture—we can see neither the sky nor the sun. The individual plants recede, non-identifiable, behind the brightly flickering curtain of nature. Every leaf, every blade of grass is in motion, rustling and crackling, trembling and flickering.

And yet the overpowering vastness of this natural world, its impenetrable quality — one might almost say, its endless quality— only achieves its fullest unfolding in the solitary person, who, tellingly, is dressed in the “non-color” of white. If she were not present in the picture, we would have no sense of scale and no center to the picture. Above all, however, we would not have the narrative tension between the individual and the inexhaustible volume of the foliage, the endlessness of nature. A question arises as to whether she has or once had a companion (male or female), and, if so, where has he or she gone? Above all, why? Have they just got out and stomped away in a fury? A sudden relationship crisis on a beautiful Sunday afternoon? They had wanted to get out into the charming natural world, in order to be (once again) close to each other. And now this? There are plenty of assumptions we could make, but one thing is certain: civilization and nature are meeting in an ambiguous manner, strangely alienated from each other. And this is, to boot, a form of civilization that has already been amply weaned away from nature. To be more precise: her white clothes could hardly be any less suited for a journey amid wild vegetation, not to mention the little hat. Perhaps the woman did not originally intend to go so far, but she had found herself going deeper and deeper into the primeval forest that was initially such a charming little wood? Alone and isolated in a great expanse, the romantic idyll suddenly transforms into its precise opposite.

Markus Stegmann in: «Herzkammer», Museum Langmatt 2020

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

French Draftsman and Painter

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Summary of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French Impressionist painter whose eye for beauty made him one of the movement's most popular practitioners. He is best known for his paintings of bustling Parisian modernity and leisure in the last three decades of the 19 th century. Though celebrated as a colorist with a keen eye for capturing the movement of light and shadow, Renoir started to explore Renaissance painting in the middle of his career, which led him to integrate more line and composition into his mature works and create some of his era's most timeless canvases.


  • Working alongside Claude Monet , Renoir was essential to developing Impressionist style in the late 1860s, but there is a decidedly human element to his work that sets him apart. Renoir had a brilliant eye for both intimate domesticity and the day's fashions, and his images of content families and well-dressed Parisian pleasure-seekers created a bridge from Impressionism's more experimental aims to a modern, middle-class art public.
  • Renoir was the first Impressionist to perceive the potential limitations of an art based primarily on optical sensation and light effects. Though his discoveries in this field would always remain integral to his art, he reasserted the necessity of composition and underlying structure in modern painting, achieving in his mature work a structured, monumental style that acknowledged the strengths of High Renaissance art.
  • Renoir's example became indispensable for the major French movements of high modernism: Fauvism and Cubism . Like Renoir, the progenitors of these styles focused on issues of color, composition, and depth rather than quick sketches of individual moments. His composed, vivid paintings created a vital bridge from earlier colorists like Raphael , Peter Paul Rubens , Jean-Antoine Watteau , and Eugène Delacroix to the 20 th -century giants Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso .

The Life of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

renoir sailboat painting

Renoir’s career could be characterized as a roller-coaster of success and rejection, and of connection with and distance from the Impressionist group. But to this day, his art continues to pose the question he once voiced himself: “Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in this world.”

Important Art by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Diana the Huntress (1867)

Diana the Huntress

This wonderfully composed piece is far from exemplary when considering Renoir's later body of work. What we see, rather, is a young artist with a gift for oil painting and composition and yet without a truly distinct voice of his own. During his early years, Renoir spent a great deal of time touring the halls of the Louvre and other museums and studying the French masters of the 18 th and early-19 th centuries. In this canvas, he rendered his mistress Lise Tréhot as the Roman goddess Diana, a common trope in Rococo portraiture. Though the matter-of-fact depiction of a full-figured nude also recalls his love of Realism à la Courbet, he achieves a Classical timelessness that Realism lacked.

Oil on canvas - The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

La Grenouillère (1869)

La Grenouillère

At the popular outdoor bathing spot and bar La Grenouillère ("The Frog Pond"), Renoir and Monet, not yet financially successful artists, painted images of middle-class leisure that they hoped to sell to its wealthy clientele. As they worked closely alongside one another, the two simultaneously developed several of the theories, techniques, and practices that would give rise to Impressionism. Both artists painted this scene from this exact vantage point. If Monet's gives a broader perspective and focuses more on the vivid effects of light on the water and surrounding trees, then Renoir's version gives a closer view of the fashionable denizens of the popular resort. Indeed, even when painting nature en plein air , Renoir gave a weight to the human subject perhaps unmatched by his fellow Impressionists.

Oil on canvas - Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

La Loge (1874)

Depicting an elegant-looking couple sitting in an elevated theater box, this tribute to Parisian modern life was also the artist's principal contribution to the very first Impressionist exhibition of the same year, and it was met with much acclaim. The theater played a prominent role in Parisian life, from opera to the popular variety shows featuring can-can dancers, and depictions of the theater typically focused on the performers. However, much of the allure of the theater for the middle class was the opportunity to see and be seen, and La Loge deftly captures that complex interplay of gazes. The woman lowers her opera glasses, implying that she is no longer watching the events on stage and allowing her face to be seen. Meanwhile, the man (Renoir's brother Edmond) leans back in his seat, perusing the theatergoers in other balconies through his glasses. With his delicate and masterful rendering of his model's lacy bodice, glinting jewelry, and floral accoutrements , Renoir painted a canvas about seeing that spoke to his own keen eye.

Oil on canvas - The Courtauld Gallery, London

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette (1876)

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette

Universally considered among Renoir's masterpieces, Dance at the Moulin de la Galette is a snapshot of everyday life in the fashionable neighborhood of Montmartre. The courtyard of the Moulin de la Galette, still in operation today, was a gathering place for working-class drinking, dining, and dancing. Moulin presented Renoir with a true and unique challenge: the sheer quantity of people, details, and viewpoints to capture, combined with the flickering sunlight and inherent movement that came with such a scene, was an awesome undertaking. His solution was a significantly larger-than-average canvas for an Impressionist painting (over four-by-six feet), in which he unified several vignettes of activity, several couples dancing, a table of friends drinking, and standing groups talking, with colorful brushstrokes that denote zones of shade and light from the canopy of trees overhead.

Oil on canvas - Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881)

Luncheon of the Boating Party

In Luncheon of the Boating Party , Renoir depicted a number of his close friends, including painters, art dealers, and his future wife Aline Charigot, in a smaller, more intimate setting than in a painting like Dance at the Moulin de la Galette . Though he uses smaller groupings of figures to manage the fourteen partygoers (and one dog), he renders the scene without making it feel staged like a group portrait. Looking beyond the individual subjects of Luncheon , there exists an amount of composition typically foreign to Impressionist canvases. Indeed, in the early 1880s, Renoir began to reintegrate classical notions of composition into his canvases; here, he used the boat's railing to create a diagonal axis from background to foreground, gradually making the scene less congested and more full of patterns of light, shadow, and color. Coupled with his intense study of surface (glass, flesh, straw, various textiles) is a sweetness in the image of Charigot smooching at a toy terrier that is representative of the best of Renoir's work.

Oil on canvas - The Phillips Collection, Washington DC

The Umbrellas (1881)

The Umbrellas

Renoir occupies an important place in the history of modern art for being the first to introduce underlying structure into the Impressionist mode of vision. In doing so, he set the stage for the Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne and for 20 th -century movements like Cubism that would deeply analyze form, depth, and perspective in a modern manner. The Umbrellas is a paradigmatic painting in that conversation, as Renoir painted it as an Impressionist canvas in 1881 before reworking it in 1886 with the underpinnings of classical composition he had seen on trips to view Old Master painting in Italy. The finished canvas, then, brings Impressionism's experiments with color and light into cooperation with stronger line and an emphasis on geometric forms, evident in the vivid, brushy trees in the background, the reflections of natural blues and greens onto the dress of the young woman on the left, and the intense interplay of eye contact. The result is a beautifully worked image that captures a temporary moment of being caught in the rain, as a gentleman, presumably taken with the beauty of the young woman, leans in to offer her shelter under his umbrella.

Oil on canvas - The National Gallery, London

The Large Bathers (1884-87)

The Large Bathers

Beyond merely attempting to bring Renaissance structure into Impressionism, Renoir also courted the timelessness of classical style by painting traditional subjects. With its focus on coloration and its figural group of three beautiful, robust women at the center, The Large Bathers is reminiscent of Peter Paul Rubens's dynamic step beyond High Renaissance techniques. Renoir painstakingly worked and reworked The Large Bathers for three years, including making several preparatory drawings and painted sketches before arriving at the finished product. The monumentality of the canvas and the figures' scale within the canvas was indicative of a step away from the smaller, quickly captured images of Impressionism. Though the painting was received unfavorably at the time, the significance of Renoir's experiments in mingling modern and traditional modes of painting cannot be overlooked.

Oil on canvas - The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Gabrielle Renard and Infant Son Jean (1895-96)

Gabrielle Renard and Infant Son Jean

Beyond his grander masterpieces, Renoir's oeuvre is also marked by a great number of very sweet images of families, often his own wife and three sons, in domestic settings. The softly impressionistic Gabrielle Renard and Infant Son Jean shows his nanny (also his wife's cousin) Gabrielle playing with his son, the future film director Jean Renoir. Jean would publish the biography Renoir, My Father in 1962, in which he illuminated parts of his upbringing and the enormous influence his father had on his artistic career. Much of our most intimate knowledge of Renoir the painter relies on the research and personal anecdotes written down by his son; here, the father portrayed an intimate moment into his son's early life, as he is entertained with a stuffed animal.

Oil on canvas - Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (1908)

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard

Ambroise Vollard was a dealer, friend, and supporter of Renoir's art in the later stages of the artist's career, even going so far as to publish a biography of the artist in 1925. Renoir celebrated their friendship by painting Vollard many times in many different guises. As a painting, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard , reveals Renoir's considerable abilities as a portraitist, through a delicately rendered image that at once touches upon the more recent artistic experiments of Paul Cézanne (multiple points of view) and Henri Matisse (large planes of color), while retaining Renoir's structure, coloration, and impressionistic application of paint. Moreover, he depicted Vollard as an intelligent connoisseur of art and an admirer of beauty who holds a small, classically inspired sculpted nude. This is particularly poignant in hindsight, as it was Vollard in 1913 who would suggest to the ailing, arthritic Renoir, for whom painting was becoming increasingly difficult, that he consider sculpting, going so far as to locate and provide for the aging artist a young, talented sculptor to help him achieve his designs. In 1908, then, despite his failing health, Portrait of Ambroise Vollard still shows Renoir capable of considerable artistic achievement.

Biography of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born into a working-class family in Limoges, a city in the central west region of France. The area is historically significant as the center of French porcelain production, reaching that status during the 19 th century. Fittingly, Renoir's first artistic job, during his teens, was as a painter in one of the town's porcelain factories. The son of a tailor and a seamstress, Renoir had a steady hand and a talent for decorative effect, which earned him praise from his employers and brought him to the attention of a growing customer base, including a number of wealthy patrons for whom he painted picture hangings and decorations for fans and other luxury objects. These early successes fed his desire to leave the factory and pursue fine arts painting.

To compensate for the limited training he was receiving in Limoges, in 1860 Renoir began making frequent trips to visit the Louvre in Paris to study the work of the French Rococo masters Jean-Antoine Watteau , Jean-Honore Fragonard , and François Boucher , and the Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix . Though Delacroix and the Rococo painters worked nearly a century apart, Renoir recognized similarities in their soft, loose handling of paint, which showed individual brushstrokes, and their embrace of color and movement rather than the Classical clarity of carefully composed form.

Early Training

Portrait of Auguste Renoir by Frederic Bazille (1867)

In 1862, Renoir began his formal training under Charles Gleyre, a Swiss-born academic painter who instructed a number of talented painters, among them Claude Monet , Alfred Sisley , and Frédéric Bazille , three of Renoir's future Impressionist colleagues with whom he became close friends upon entering Gleyre's Paris studio.

During their training, Renoir and his new friends would venture into the scenic forest of Fontainebleau to engage in plein air painting. However, unlike Monet and Sisley, Renoir always maintained a penchant for the studio and for painting more traditional portraiture in the style of the 18 th -century French masters he so admired. Fontainebleau became a favorite painting spot of Renoir's and one he visited frequently, thanks in part to his friend Jules Le Coeur, an admirer of his art who owned a house in Bourron-Marlotte, a commune on the forest's southern border. In 1865, Le Coeur introduced Renoir to the seventeen-year-old Lise Tréhot, who became Renoir's lover and favorite model for several years. Tréhot sat for dozens of portraits, including two in 1867: Diana the Huntress , which portrayed her as a Greek goddess a la a Rococo portrait, and Lise with a Parasol , which was received favorably at the French Salon of 1868. Well aware of the Salon's strict standards, Renoir executed these portraits in a conventional compositional style, combining smooth lines and meticulous coloration with a matter-of-fact naturalism reminiscent of the Realist painter Gustave Courbet , whom he admired.

During the summer of 1869, Renoir and Monet spent two months painting at La Grenouillère, a lakeside boating resort for the French middle class located just outside of Paris. Indeed, the case can be made that Renoir and Monet sowed the seeds of Impressionism at La Grenouillere. It was here that both men began to use broad brushstrokes to capture momentary scenes with a sketch-like looseness of feel, deftly capturing the water's natural movement and reflective effect on light.

Mature Period

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Photo

Immediately following the brief but tumultuous Franco-Prussian War (in which Renoir fought) and the occupation of the French Commune in 1871, Renoir's early success began to take a turn for the worse. Rejections from the Salon far outnumbered acceptances, due in no small part to the "unfinished" quality his newer work assumed. His fortunes reached a point where Renoir was faced with the choice of either paying models or buying paint. While others of his colleagues like Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro had ceased to do so, Renoir continued submitting work to the Salon up until 1873, holding on to the belief that acceptance was a necessary yardstick for success. As Petra Chu notes in Nineteenth-Century European Art : "As late as 1881, the Impressionist painter Auguste Renoir wrote to his dealer [Paul] Durand-Ruel: 'In Paris, there are barely fifteen collectors capable of liking a painter without the backing of the Salon. And there are another eighty thousand who won't buy so much as a postcard unless the painter exhibits there.'" In addition, his friendship with the Le Coeur family soured in 1874, leaving Renoir without that source of patronage and the ability to stay in their home near Fontainebleau.

Following the 1873 Salon, in which the Impressionists' canvases were largely panned, Renoir and his cohorts began planning an independent exhibition of their works, free from the aesthetic constraints of the Salon and its jury system. The first Impressionist group show was held on April 15, 1874. While Renoir sold few works as a result of the show, it brought him to the attention of the collector Victor Chocquet, whose portrait he would paint and who would become something of a financial savior during this period.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir when he was appoximately 34 years old

By the time of the fourth Impressionist exhibition in 1878, Renoir quietly abstained. He had discovered financial independence thanks to regular portrait commissions (which in turn led to further success in the Salon) and had become disenchanted with the ideology of spontaneity that he felt had consumed the group. Shortly after disassociating himself from the very group of artists he helped found, Renoir traveled to Italy for the first time, a trip enabled by a financial deal he had struck with the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. During this sojourn, he came of the opinion that Impressionism lacked the structural underpinnings that had produced the great art of the Renaissance masters like Raphael. As he wrote to the dealer Ambroise Vollard later in his life, "by the early 1880s, he felt that he had 'reached the end of Impressionism, and could neither paint nor draw.'"

This pilgrimage, then, was a motivation for Renoir to move away from the loose, incidental quality of Impressionism toward more Classical ideas of draftsmanship, composition, and modeling. This shift had, to an extent, already begun: Renoir produced the iconic Luncheon of the Boating Party between 1880 and 1881, immediately before leaving France, and it shows an adjustment of his painterly techniques toward greater compositional unity. The focus of his mature work would no longer be exclusively on pioneering new modes of expressing the movement and color of light and nature. Rather, he looked to the coloration of the Rococo and late Renaissance periods, tendencies that were supported by further trips to Italy, Spain, and England.

Late Years and Death

As the turn of the century approached, now married and with three sons (the last born in 1901), Renoir continued to produce work at an impressive rate, despite his continually failing health. An injury to his right arm from a bicycle accident had left him with severe arthritis, and rheumatism plagued his left eye. By 1910, he was mostly relegated to a wheelchair and with bandages around his hands, making painting a great challenge. The family purchased a home in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France, which gave Renoir periodic relief from his pains with its dry and mild climate.

In the previous decade, Renoir had befriended the art dealer Vollard, who became both an important patron and a trusted advisor to the artist when it came to choosing subject matter. In 1913, Vollard, well aware of Renoir's physical limitations, made the bold suggestion that he attempt sculpture, introducing him to the Catalan-born sculptor Richard Guino. Despite his physical ailments, Renoir was able to complete several successful sculptures during his collaboration with Guino, who largely worked with clay.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Portrait

Influenced by his earlier trips to Spain to see the works of Francisco Goya , Renoir infused his late paintings with an increasingly monumental style. While his fellow Impressionists Claude Monet and Edgar Degas pursued the effects of light nearly to the brink of abstraction later in their careers, Renoir gained a solid, almost sculptural quality in the figures and landscapes he painted during the twilight of his career.

In the winter of 1919, Renoir suffered a heart attack at his home in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Shortly after, he passed away on December 3, 1919, with his sons by his side and several of his works hanging in the Louvre among the French masters he once went there to study.

The Legacy of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

It could be argued that Renoir and his colleague Monet are to Impressionism as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are to Cubism : their experiments in painting together created an entirely modern visual idiom and marked off the artistic territory that the movement would grow to inhabit in the following decades.

He was also the first among his colleagues to recognize the cul-de-sac that Impressionism presented. Though Paul Cézanne is typically credited for the attempt "to make of Impressionism something solid and lasting like the art of the museums," this crisis in the movement was first met head-on by Renoir. His well-documented reintroduction of composition, outline, and modeling into his painting never completely erased the radical reassessment of color he helped theorize alongside Monet. Ultimately, his combination of modernity and tradition was highly influential on a next generation of artists including Pierre Bonnard , Pablo Picasso , Henri Matisse , and Maurice Denis , all of whom collected his work.

Influences and Connections


Useful Resources on Pierre-Auguste Renoir

  • Renoir Our Pick By Anne Distel
  • Renoir By Peter H. Feist
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir By Mike Venezia
  • Renoir. Painter of Happiness Our Pick By Gilles Néret
  • Renoir, My Father Our Pick By Jean Renoir
  • Renoir: An Intimate Biography By Barbara Ehrlich White
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Paintings, Pastels and Drawings By Ambroise Vollard
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir By Daniel Ankele and Denise Ankele
  • 924 Color Paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir Our Pick By Jacek Michalak
  • Renoir: Intimacy Our Pick By Colin B. Bailey and Flavie Durand-Ruel
  • Renoir: The Body, The Senses Our Pick By Esther Bell and George T. M. Shackelford
  • The Great Book of French Impressionism By Diane Kelder
  • Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party By Eliza E. Rathbone
  • Renoir Landscapes: 1865-1883 By Colin Bailey, Christopher Riopelle, and John House
  • Renoir, Impressionism and Full-Length Painting at the Frick Collection Our Pick
  • Renoir Landscapes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Our Pick
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Critic Tries to Appreciate Renoir By Kenneth Baker / The San Francisco Chronicle / April 24, 2014
  • How This Renoir Used to Look By Kenneth Chang / The New York Times / April 20, 2014
  • Renoir in Britain: His Fleeting Impression Our Pick By Alastair Smart / The Telegraph / February 1, 2014
  • A Muse to the Father, and a Wife to the Son By Stephen Holden / The New York Times / March 28, 2013
  • Seduction is Afoot: 'Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting' at the Frick Collection By Alfred MacAdam / ARTnews / April 10, 2012
  • Avant-Gardist in Retreat Our Pick By Holland Cotter / The New York Times / June 17, 2010
  • Renoir’s Controversial Second Act Our Pick By Richard Covington / Smithsonian Magazine / February 2010
  • Renoir Father and Son: Painting and Cinema By Anna McNay / Studio International / November 29, 2018
  • How Renoir Became a Leading Impressionist and Created an Enduring Style of His Own By Claire Selvin / ArtNews / February 25, 2021
  • Christie's Gallery Talk: Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Baigneuse Our Pick
  • Khan Academy: Renoir, Moulin de la Galette Our Pick
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir Biography
  • Rare Footage of Pierre-Auguste Renoir Painting in 1919
  • Trailer for the Film Renoir
  • Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party - Smarthistory Our Pick
  • Renoir, The Grands Boulevards - Smarthistory Our Pick
  • Renoir: Courtauld's Impressionists - National Gallery
  • How to Recognize Renoir: The Swing Our Pick
  • The Problem with Renoir: A Hard Look at the Artist on the Centennial of His Death - National Gallery of Art Our Pick
  • "Painting 'Renoir' in Finely Detailed Strokes By Susan Stamberg / NPR / April 11, 2013
  • Renoir (2012) Dramatic motion picture based on the life of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, directed by Gilles Bourdos

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All About Sailing in Painting

Magda Michalska 26 August 2022 min Read

renoir sailboat painting

Claude Monet, Regatta at Sainte-Adresse , The Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY, USA. Detail.


renoir sailboat painting

Masterpiece Story: Sailboats by Lyonel Feninger

renoir sailboat painting

European Art

Masterpiece Story: Seascape Near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer by Van Gogh

renoir sailboat painting

Art Travels

Seven Luminist Seascapes to Make You Want a Beach Vacation

I’ve sailed only once or twice in my whole life but I can still remember the empowering feeling of liberation that I felt when on the water. Sailing and sailboats have been a common topic taken up by many artists across decades and countries in painting. Let’s sail with them, bon voyage!

1. On Board with Friedrich

Sailing in Painting: Caspar David Friedrich, On Board of a Sailing Ship, 1820, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Has this scene filled with light surprised you? Well, in the end, Friedrich is associated more with grey tones and lonely travelers…

2. Renoir’s Sailboats

Sailing in Painting

Some people say that Renoir didn’t know how to paint . Well, I think that works like this one defy this argument, don’t you think?

3. Sea Trip with Courbet

renoir sailboat painting

Gustave Courbet might be well-known for his provocative works like the Origin of the world , but in fact, he was a great landscape painter who loved depicting water and rocks.

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renoir sailboat painting

When days get too sunny article features another work by J.H. Twatchman . Have a read!

5. Kandinsky’s Folk Sail

renoir sailboat painting

This woodblock print by Wassily Kandinsky is inspired by folk art from his native Russian Empire.

6. Sail like a Fauve with Vlaminck

Sailing in Painting

Maurice de Vlaminck was a member of the Fauves together with Henri Matisse and André Derain.

7. Provocative Trips with Kokoschka

renoir sailboat painting

This woodblock print was part of the printed book for children that Oskar Kokoschka made. Yet, it turned out to be very provocative… Why? Read here .

8. Dufy’s Coast City

renoir sailboat painting

Raoul Dufy was yet another Fauvist and I feel there is going to be an article about him one day here!

9. Abstract Sails by Klee

Sailing in Painting

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Lichtenstein’s Sea Impasto

renoir sailboat painting

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  • Caspar David Friedrich
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  • Oskar Kokoschka
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renoir sailboat painting

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renoir sailboat painting

Magda Michalska

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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  1. Renoir

    renoir sailboat painting

  2. Boating at Argenteuil

    renoir sailboat painting

  3. Sailboats at Argenteuil

    renoir sailboat painting

  4. The Seine at Asnieres (Pierre Auguste Renoir

    renoir sailboat painting

  5. Pierre-Auguste Renoir

    renoir sailboat painting

  6. Sailboats At Argentuil Painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir Reproduction

    renoir sailboat painting


  1. Pierre-Auguste Renoir

    Boating was a popular subject for the Impressionists, and Renoir includes familiar Impressionist motifs such as the rowing boat itself (in fact, a skiff or small gig), a sailboat, a riverside villa, and a railway bridge (perhaps also a discrete reference to Monet's interest in railways).

  2. Luncheon of the Boating Party

    Luncheon of the Boating Party, oil painting created in 1880-81 by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.Exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1882, it was immediately hailed as one of the best the artist had painted, and its reputation has not diminished since then.. In the background of this painting is one of the many railway bridges that had recently been built by the French government and that ...

  3. Luncheon of the Boating Party

    Luncheon of the Boating Party French: Le Déjeuner des canotiers is an 1881 painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.Included in the Salon in 1882, it was identified as the best painting in the show by three critics. It was purchased from the artist by the dealer-patron Paul Durand-Ruel and bought in 1923 (for $125,000) from his son by industrialist Duncan Phillips, who spent a ...

  4. Luncheon of the Boating Party: A History of Renoir's Masterpiece

    The Painting. At 51″ x 68″, Luncheon of the Boating Party is one of Renoir's largest paintings. It was painted in 1881 and shown at the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition the following year, where it was overwhelmingly praised by critics. The piece depicts a group of figures having lunch on the sunny balcony of the Maison Fournaise, a ...

  5. 15 Facts About Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party

    Luncheon' s more defined borders and greater attention to contouring gives its subjects an almost 3D appearance. 3. IT IS ONE OF RENOIR'S LARGEST PAINTINGS. Luncheon of the Boating Party measures ...

  6. Luncheon of the Boating Party

    Hailed as "one of the most famous French paintings of modern times" when it was first exhibited, the Luncheon of the Boating Party was flanked by Alfred Sisley's Snow at Louveciennes and Banks of the Seine at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in December 1923. At the time, Phillips had intentions of forming a unit of Renoir's works; however ...

  7. Renoir's 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' Captures the Height of Summer

    Renoir painting outdoors, circa 1910s, with his right hand. Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images. 2) This Luncheon Is a Goodbye Party for Impressionism ... The sailboats in the background and the ...

  8. Sailboats, 1885

    Written by: Meryam Joobeur. Produced by: Maria Gracia Turgeon, Habib Attia. Mohamed is deeply shaken when his oldest son Malik returns home after a long journey with a mysterious new wife. 'Sailboats' was created in 1885 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in Impressionism style. Find more prominent pieces of marina at - best visual art ...

  9. Sailboats at Argenteuil, 1874

    Produced by: Maria Gracia Turgeon, Habib Attia. Mohamed is deeply shaken when his oldest son Malik returns home after a long journey with a mysterious new wife. 'Sailboats at Argenteuil' was created in 1874 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in Impressionism style. Find more prominent pieces of marina at - best visual art database.

  10. Luncheon of the Boating Party Analysis

    Luncheon of the Boating Party Use of color. The colors adopted by Renoir are very rich and he contrasts the deep blue and green with vivid red and greens. Brimming with color this painting reflects both the time period and Impressionist style. Texture is represented by the figures´ clothing as well as Renoir´s applied brushstrokes.

  11. The Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880

    Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881; French: Le déjeuner des canotiers) is a painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.Included in the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition in 1882, it was identified as the best painting in the show by three critics. It was purchased from the artist by the dealer-patron Paul Durand-Ruel and bought in 1923 (for $125,000) from his son by industrialist ...

  12. Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party (video)

    (piano music intro) - [Voiceover] We're in the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., and we're looking at one of Renoir's largest paintings. This is "The Luncheon of the Boating Party." - [Voiceover] This dates to 1880, 1881, so we're now about seven years or so after the first Impressionist Exhibition of 1874, so sometimes we think about ...

  13. Sailboats at Argenteuil by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

    Sailboats at Argenteuil is such a peaceful image of an ironically busy waterway. These days we don't think of shallow waters as types of areas as busy or industrial, but back in 1874 when Pierre-Auguste Renoir created this image it was a haven for faced paced trading and travel. The tone of Sailboats at Argenteuil is that of a timid day that ...

  14. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Boat, circa 1878

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir, On Chatou Island, circa 1879. The Museum Langmatt - an unmistakable ensemble of architecture, art collection, and park - is without equal in Switzerland. Ever since it opened in 1990, the museum has fascinated a broad cross-section of the public by providing insights into the life of a prosperous family of the Belle ...

  15. The Impressionists at Argenteuil

    In 1873 and 1874 Monet continued this practice with Renoir, painting five pendant views, among them the paired versions of the celebrated Sailboats at Argenteuil. Such close cooperation was quite rare and gave the painters many opportunities to discuss their artistic strategies and to share information, observations, and technical innovations.

  16. Renoir Paintings, Bio, Ideas

    Summary of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French Impressionist painter whose eye for beauty made him one of the movement's most popular practitioners. He is best known for his paintings of bustling Parisian modernity and leisure in the last three decades of the 19 th century. Though celebrated as a colorist with a keen eye for capturing the movement of light and shadow ...

  17. All About Sailing in Painting

    Sailing in Painting: Wassily Kandinsky, The Golden Sail, 1903, Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany. This woodblock print by Wassily Kandinsky is inspired by folk art from his native Russian Empire. 6. Sail like a Fauve with Vlaminck. Sailing in Painting: Maurice de Vlaminck, White sailboat at Chatou, 1907, private collection.

  18. Pierre-Auguste Renoir

    A Box at the Theater (At the Concert), 1880, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, in 1841. His father, Léonard Renoir, was a tailor of modest means, so, in 1844, Renoir's family moved to Paris in search of more favorable prospects. The location of their home, in rue d'Argenteuil ...

  19. Pierre-Auguste Renoir

    Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Pierre Auguste Renoir was a French artist, and was a leading painter of the Impressionist style. As a young boy, he worked in a porcelain factory. His drawing skills were early recognized, and he was soon employed to create designs on the fine china. He also painted decorations on fans before beginning art school .

  20. Boulevard des Capucines (Monet)

    1873-74. Medium. Oil on canvas. Dimensions. 80.3 cm × 60.3 cm (31.6 in × 23.75 in) Location. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. Boulevard des Capucines is an oil on canvas street scene painting of the famous Paris boulevard by French Impressionist artist Claude Monet created in 1873.

  21. Pavel Tretyakov and His Gallery

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