While many artists begin with sketches or small painted studies before creating a major work of art, there are no drawings or oil studies known to exist for Luncheon of the Boating Party. Instead, Renoir developed his composition as the image evolved, which was in keeping with the Impressionist practice of responding to a moment in time.
However, there are other paintings that Renoir created which demonstrate an interest in depicting that type of scene. For example, in 1866 (almost 15 years before embarking on Luncheon of the Boating Party), he painted Mother Anthony’s Tavern which shows several friends gathered around for dinner with the table extending toward the viewer.
About a decade later, he created Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (The Rowers’ Lunch) which not only depicts another scene of friends gathered for a meal but demonstrates Renoir’s stylistic evolution of capturing color and light.
Renoir did not only turn to the scenes in front of him for inspiration. He also frequently visited the Louvre in Paris to look at paintings from the past. He may have looked at paintings, such as Paolo Veronese’s The Marriage Feast at Cana (1562) or Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Embarkation for Cythera (1717) for ideas of how to create nuanced gestures, subtle expressions, and complex compositions.
Mother Anthony's Tavern
Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Sweden/The Bridgeman Art Library, 1866.
Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (The Rowers’ Lunch)
Potter Palmer Collection, Photograph by Robert Hashimoto, The Art Institute Chicago. Photogaphy copyright The Art Institute Chicago
In the Classroom: Reading Text, Reading Art Activity
In addition to artists, many authors were also inspired by their rapidly changing world. Authors wrote short stories, poetry, and novels that explored the sights, sounds, smells, and moods of an afternoon in the towns outside of Paris. Guy de Maupassant often visited Chatou and spent time at the Maison Fournaise with Renoir.
In this activity, students will compare the text of one of Maupassant’s poems and Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, using a modified version of the SQ3R reading strategy.
First, ask students to quickly survey the poem and discuss their questions. Then, students will read the poem again in more detail, identifying words or phrases that might help answer their initial questions. Students will review the poem another time and circle words or phrases that set the mood of the poem. Finally, ask students how they can connect the poem to the painting, using the poem and painting to support their responses.
In the Classroom: Reflecting on Your Artistic Process Activity
Luncheon of the Boating Party is not only a genre, portrait, and landscape painting, but it also includes a carefully created still life scene on the table in the foreground. Ask students to create their own still life image in whatever medium they choose. As they arrange their own composition for the still life, students should document their process and final product. Ask students to write a short statement that explains their process, the medium they chose and why, and what they want the image to express to the viewer.