The Maison Fournaise
In the mid-19th century, an emerging middle class in Paris sought refuge in suburban towns outside the city to dine, relax, eat, and socialize. Chatou was a small but popular riverside town, and one of Renoir’s favorite places to visit.
In 1857, Alphonse Fournaise opened a small hotel in Chatou, called Maison Fournaise, with a restaurant and boat rental facility. By the time Renoir began visiting the hotel in the 1870s, it had become renowned for its fêtes nautiques (nautical events).
The hotel and restaurant welcomed customers from a variety of social classes and professions: businessmen, society women, artists, writers, and actors. This diversity represented a modern Parisian society fulfilling the French Revolution’s goal of liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity).
The classroom activities below ask students to create their own contemporary luncheon scene, as well as compare primary sources to better understand this time in history.
Postcard of the Maison Fournaise and the Seine River
Copyright Musée Fournaise, Chatou-France.
Postcard of The Maison Fournaise
Courtesy of the Municipal Archives of Chatou.
Early-twentieth centuryView Detail
In the Classroom: Contemporary Boating Scene Activity
Begin by asking students to synthesize information about the people and location within the painting to create their own contemporary version of the painting. What medium would they use? Where would it be located? Who would be included in their image? If Luncheon of the Boating Party was meant to depict a modern Parisian society, what does their image express about society today?
In the Classroom: Paintings and Postcards as Primary Sources Activity
The two postcards from the Maison Fournaise serve as historical records of the location and appearance of the hotel. Students can compare the postcards and the Luncheon of the Boating Party as primary sources. Ask students to consider what information can be learned from each. Which one more effectively evokes a sense of time and place? Why? Students can be divided into groups and engage in a formal debate about which source serves as a better primary source in understanding this time period and place.