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In Luncheon of the Boating Party, Renoir’s circle of friends sit on the balcony of the riverside restaurant Fournaise, where many boaters, writers, models, and art enthusiasts gathered in the summer. The group looks so homogenous that it’s hard to discern the different classes and occupations, from the proprietor, Alphonse Fournaise, to Gustave Caillebotte, who both wear the straw hats and white shirts attributed to boaters. Caillebotte was not only a well-known painter in his own right but an avid boater as well. Ironically, Renoir creates the tigh-knit and festive atmosphere by giving each member a different line of vision, and as individuals they seem to be absorbed in their own thoughts.
Identification of each member of the party: >>>
Caillebotte presents a different kind of occasion in Luncheon, where his mother and brother René dine in silence, attended by their butler. The Caillebotte family was well-off, but, at this point, had to sort out their finances after the death of Gustave’s father. René was particularly good at reckless spending. Caillebotte always creates an unusual perspective that makes the viewer’s involvement ambiguous, and, here, the plate in the foreground suggests that he himself sits at the table. Callebotte’s paintings seem to grow out of that play in perspective, making it hard to judge whether family tensions are involved in Luncheon. The colors may not be as bright and flashy as Renoir’s, but the dynamics and perspective are no less innovative.
Bazille and Camille is a study for Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass, which was less successful than its provocative counterpart and was left unfinished. The study, on the other hand, could be a painting on its own, as Monet’s brushwork and composition bears none of the stiffness that characterizes his intended product.