Luncheon of the Boating Party

Luncheon of the Boating Party

by Susan Vreeland


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143113522
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/26/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 152,234
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

Susan Vreeland is the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including Clara and Mr. Tiffany and Girl in Hyacinth Blue. She lives in San Diego.


San Diego, California

Date of Birth:

January 20, 1946

Place of Birth:

Racine, Wisconsin


San Diego State University

Reading Group Guide

Library Journal says of this novel, “One of the most significant paintings of the Impressionist period is Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, and it’s hard to imagine that a novel could do it justice. Yet this new work from Vreeland does just that.” It reveals the mysteries of the painting with all the life, color, vibrancy, and subtlety of the painting itself. In the painting, Renoir depicted a group of Parisians—including several of his friends and lovers—on a restaurant terrace overlooking the Seine near Paris. In the novel, Renoir and these same revelers take us into their own lives—behind the scenes at the Folies-Bergère, and to artists’ studios, cafés, cabarets, salons, and regattas—while reflecting tumultuous changes as Paris careens toward modernity. With the impending and agonizing breakup of the Impressionist group and a huge change in the marketing of art imminent, Renoir faces a double crisis in art and love.

In Luncheon of the Boating Party, Susan Vreeland, an exquisite and passionate chronicler of historical paintings, takes the reader through the process of painting by way of Renoir, the many models in the painting, and the relationships he had with them—a complex mix of paint, color, and texture as well as the personalities of the myriad men and women in his life. The process of the painting is always the main issue, revealing the artist’s difficulties and ultimately his triumph, but the models’ lives display such French cultural issues as the residual trauma of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, changes in marriage traditions, the rise of feminism, the decline of old institutions, the yearning for personal expression, and the explosion of creativity in the arts, journalism, music, and literature.

Renoir had wanted to paint boaters on the terrace of La Maison Fournaise in Chatou for years. With the nineteenth-century advent of “le weekend,” Parisians flocked to the boathouse and restaurant to rent rowing skiffs, eat good food, and relax with friends and family by the river. Throughout the 1870s, Renoir often visited La Maison Fournaise to enjoy its convivial atmosphere and rural beauty, and to paint scenes nearby. In the late summer of 1880, he realized the light was perfect, but the complexity of his idea for a painting and the time constraint of the season gave him just two months—only seven or eight Sundays—of good light. He had to hurry.

Forgoing any preliminary drawings, sketches, or oil studies, Renoir went straight to the canvas. Now he had the setting, but he needed his subjects. Renoir wanted to construct a painting about modern life—the new, liberated freedom of la vie moderne. The patrons of the Maison were a ready blend of people from different classes and occupations: businessmen, artists, actors, writers, society women, seamstresses, and shop girls. He assembled fourteen men and women—some of them friends, some of them lovers, some he’d never met before—into a vibrant portrait of modern society.

The resultant painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party, and Vreeland’s own dazzling addition to her already outstanding body of work convey the recreational, leisurely mood of the setting on the Seine as well as the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era. Renoir’s diverse group embodies the modern Parisian society that embraced and promoted liberty, equality, and fraternity.



“Amazingly engrossing . . . lovely prose . . . [a] riveting, complex novel.”—Booklist

“Vreeland’s love for Renoir is made palpable in this brilliant reconstruction.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Vreeland achieves a detailed and surprising group portrait, individualized and immediate.”—Publishers Weekly

“[Vreeland] creates a profoundly moving portrait of the creative process.”—Library Journal


Coming out of the Louvre for the first time in 1971, dizzy with new love, I stood on Pont Neuf and made a pledge to myself that the art of this newly discovered world in the Old World would be my life companion. Never had history been more vibrant, its voices more resonating, its images more gripping. On this first trip to Europe, I felt myself a pilgrim: To me, even secular places such as museums and ruins were imbued with the sacred. Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, religious and social history—I was swept away with all of it, wanting to read more, to learn languages, to fill my mind with rich, glorious, long-established culture wrought by human desire, daring, and faith. I wanted to keep a Gothic cathedral alive in my heart. My imagination exploded with the gaiety of the Montmartre dancers at Moulin de la Galette, the laborer whose last breath in his flattened chest was taken under the weight of a stone fallen from the Duomo under construction in Florence, the apprentice who cut himself preparing glass for the jeweled windows of Sainte Chapelle, the sweating quarry worker aching behind his crowbar at Carrara to release a marble that would become the Pietà. In a fashion I couldn't imagine then, I have been true to this pledge. I have brought to life the daughter of the Dutch painter Vermeer who secretly yearned to paint the Delft she loved. I've given voice to the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, raped at seventeen by her painting teacher, the first woman to paint large scale figures from history and scripture previously reserved for men. On my own continent, I've entered deep British Columbian forests with Emily Carr, whose love for native people took her to places proper white women didn't go. My imagination has followed Modigliani's daughter around Paris searching for shreds of information about the father she never knew. I've imagined myself a poor wetnurse, bereaved of her own baby so that a rich woman, Berthe Morisot, might paint. I've taken my seventeenth century Tuscan shoemaker to Rome to have his longed-for religious experience under the Sistine ceiling. I've followed Renoir's models to cabarets and boat races, to war and elopement, to the Folies-Bergère and luncheons by the Seine. Now some facts as to how I arrived there: After graduating from San Diego State University, I taught high school English in San Diego beginning in 1969 and retired in 2000 after a 30-year career. Concurrently, I began writing features for newspapers and magazines in 1980, taking up subjects in art and travel, and publishing 250 articles. I ventured into fiction in 1988 with What Love Sees, a biographical novel of a woman's unwavering determination to lead a full life despite blindness. The book was made into a CBS television movie starring Richard Thomas and Annabeth Gish. My short fiction has appeared in The Missouri Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, Confrontation, Alaska Quarterly Review, Manoa, Connecticut Review, Calyx, Crescent Review, So To Speak and elsewhere.



Why did you choose Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party as a subject for a novel? Does it have some significance to you personally?

There are many reasons. Luncheon of the Boating Party, owned by The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., has served Americans as a symbol of France and French culture, both of which I love, and is as evocative and triumphant an image as that other emissary of France, the Statue of Liberty. Besides being the central masterpiece of the art movement that changed the look of art forever, it represents the qualities of the French soul: joyous friendship, appreciation of beauty, verve, and the intoxication with life. It invites us to ask ourselves: How can one live a life so filled with beauty and so rich with pleasure?

Some part of me came alive in front of this painting the first time I saw it. I glimpsed more than the aesthetics of another culture—I saw a lovely, enticing range of cultural attitudes to discover. I sensed that a study of this painting would lead me to an exploration that was bound to enrich my life. The painting suggested a supplement d’âme, something more in the soul, another region ultimately more important than what can be quantified in a methodical assessment of one’s life. It was, in fact, the French art de vivre. At that moment, I felt possessed by the yearning for creative expression, just as, I was later to discover, was keenly felt by most of the figures in the painting.

What is the painting about? In part, it’s about the tantalizing riches of the senses. It invokes sensuous experiences beyond the visual: the feel of the breeze on the skin, evidenced by the fluttering scallops on the awning and the sailboats making their way upstream; the fragrance of the fruit that fills the nose; the taste of wine that enlivens the palate; the feel of one’s surroundings—one woman’s fingers in a dog’s fur, the sun on another one’s back; the sound of songs sung by boaters as they row past, and by the models to each other. They are sucking pleasure out of everything, valuing the last taste in the glass and the colors surrounding them, noticing the look in someone’s eyes and engaging in spirited exchange.

One looks at the painting and envies for an instant the characters’ capacity to fill themselves with pleasure, to grasp the fleeting present and hold it as one might hold a small bird before letting it go. The painting is imbued with this encouragement to notice delicious details in life, to value the moment, and each other. Seen in the press of high-speed living, it seduces us and urges us to stop and look and listen and taste and feel—and, ultimately, appreciate. At its best moments that’s what fine art can do if we let it work on us. It is, perhaps, what the art collector Duncan Phillips meant when he called it “one of the greatest paintings in the world,” and what his wife, Marjorie, meant in referring to it as “that fabulous, incredibly entrancing, utterly alive and beguiling Renoir masterpiece.”

Such a gift from Renoir to the ages! One must clasp hands before it in awe. My novel is my way of living in the painting, learning its lessons of the art of living, and ultimately disseminating its spirit and its sensibilities.

This painting is packed with beautiful figures interacting. Did that influence your choice of this painting as a subject?

Indeed, it did. I saw tremendous story potential in these appealing characters, flushed with pleasure and enjoying a summer day on a terrace overlooking the Seine. They teased and captivated me. However, Renoir took pains not to suggest a specific story and attested that he was only depicting a single moment in that summertime of Impressionism. That begs a novelist to create a story—and how rich it could be with all of those characters from different social classes. Renoir’s composition poses intriguing questions about the people and their relationships that I knew I must answer. For example, why is that woman in the upper right covering her ears? What is being said that she doesn’t want to hear? Or is she cupping her ears so she can hear better? Whose hand is that around her waist? Does the girl playing with the dog know that the man in the boater opposite her is admiring at her? Why do two men wear singlets and another a top hat, and what is the top-hatted man saying to his friend? And what is the big fellow thinking as he surveys the scene? Oh, so much to decide. It was exhilarating, and I found myself living that vibrant life captured in this moment.

As I researched Renoir’s life and the lives of the models, his very real friends, I saw that the issues of their lives reflected the artistic, intellectual, and social climate of the time. I could use their personal stories to expand the novel from merely a story about a man painting a picture to a multilayered narrative revealing the essence of a time period, the explosive, rapidly changing late-nineteenth century in Paris, the world capital of art and style and pleasure and, because it’s French, love.

Renoir painted fourteen different individuals. What sources did you consult in your research of the models posed in the painting? Why specifically did you give narrative voices to only seven of the models? What made you choose them over any of the others? And how did you come to speculate on their innermost thoughts and feelings?

I started with a wonderful book produced by The Phillips Collection, which owns the painting: Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” by Eliza E. Rathbone et al. It identified the models and provided some information about each of them. Then I did individual research about them in other books. For example, biographies and critical studies of Jules Laforgue indicated his proclivity toward quoting Shakespeare. I read his poetry and art criticism, as well as that of Charles Ephrussi, in his Gazette des Beaux-Arts to learn his assessment of Impressionist painters. Ellen Andrée’s performance history revealed her career as a mime to have taken a turn when she joined an avant-garde theater. I read accounts of the Folies-Bergère and applied aspects of it to her. I searched the archives of the Comédie-Française in Paris to learn what plays Jeanne Samary was rehearsing and performing at the time the painting was made, read them (they were by Molière) to learn what she might have been thinking. I discovered her contested engagement and elopement to Joseph-Paul Lagarde, and so I integrated lines from the plays into her scenes. Bits of description of Julien Tanguy, the art-supply dealer, appeared in several contemporary reports, and his portrait by Vincent van Gogh revealed his appearance.Renoir: My Father, the memoir by Renoir’s son, Jean Renoir provided recollections of his father’s attitudes, favorite sayings, and some priceless bits of humor and sarcasm. Renoir’s letters appear in several sources, and subjective accounts of his life by two of his friends—Ambroise Vollard’s Renoir: An Intimate Record and Georges Rivière’s Renoir et Ses Amis—were helpful.

Having all fourteen models function as point-of-view characters would have lengthened the novel to unmanageable proportions. I made selections on the basis of what material was available, but more importantly, what that information would allow me to contribute to a portrait of late-nineteenth-century Paris. I chose those whose lives provided heat or conflict, as well as issues that I like to explore. For example, the yearning to express and to create is demonstrated by Gustave, Jules, Ellen, and Jeanne Samary, who would not give up theater for love. Changes in marriage traditions and the roles of women could be illustrated by Jeanne’s elopement, which did, in fact, happen at this time. Bohemian life of Montmartre could best be represented by Angèle. I chose Aline, Gustave, and Paul as point-of-view characters because of their importance in Renoir’s life. Fortunately, their experiences provided material for a more complete picture of the artistic and social worlds of the time. And I chose Alphonsine because she could be most present, could provide a picture of the losses and trauma of the Franco-Prussian War, and would, I imagine, be attracted to Renoir in part, at least, because his work conveyed the river life surrounding her. The rest is imagination.

Impressionism developed in the 1870s. How did you prepare yourself to write about a different time and place?

By reading, of course. Fiction and nonfiction. My bibliography posted on my Web site indicates that my reading extended far beyond biographies of Renoir and art histories of the Impressionist period. My research included such broad topics as the history of the nineteenth century in France, French society and culture, as well as such specific topics as the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris, and the Commune; the changes in the marketing of art from the Salon to independent galleries, along with the famous art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel; the practice of the duel; dressmaking and couture of late-nineteenth-century Paris; Baron Haussmann’s sweeping changes in the look of Paris streets and squares, Montmartre, and quarters where Gustave Caillebotte, Charles Ephrussi, and Madame Charpentier lived; operas current at the time, cabarets and cabaret songs and singers, dance halls and dances, cafés; canotage, the new leisure of boating, styles of rowing craft, the specifics of river jousting, the organization of sailing regattas; transportation and currency; oil paints available at the time, art-supply dealers, color theory, Renoir’s palette and his preferred types of brushes; other painters who figure in the novel, Monet, Cézanne, Caillebotte, Degas, Bazille, Sisley; the tension among the Impressionist painters and the eventual break up of the group; publications popular at the time; the French character, gender roles, and early feminism.

I also read literature written or performed at the time: the novels of Émile Zola, the stories of Guy de Maupassant, and the poetry of Jules Laforgue, all of whom are characters in Luncheon of the Boating Party who frequented La Maison Fournaise. This gave me a sense of voice. And I searched out and listened to the music and operas and cabaret songs of the late-nineteenth century to give me a sense of the gaiety, the attitudes towards love, and the political opinions expressed in the period.

And I had the good fortune to travel to Paris twice for visual research, to walk where my characters walked and feel the rise of the land, the surrounding architecture, the river and its banks, the quality of air. I had two luncheons at La Maison Fournaise, the restaurant just west of Paris where Renoir painted Luncheon. I studied French during the three years of writing the book, so that I could read untranslated research and grasp the sound of the language and expressions. I absorbed as many Impressionist paintings as I could, in Parisian museums and in many museums in the United States, and in books, looking for clues to architecture, clothing, settings. All of this was enormously enjoyable to me, and I’ve come away understanding more of French culture.

What elements in the novel are fact and what is fiction? How do you decide when departures from fact are justified?

With all of this research, I was able to have a large degree of authenticity. The paintings, the identities of the models, the salient events of their lives, Renoir’s process of painting, the issues facing the Impressionist group, the places where scenes are set, are all factual. For the sake of the narrative, actual dates of certain events—Renoir’s meeting Aline, owning the steam-cycle, and getting his arm out of the cast—were adjusted by a few months. When the identity of a model in another painting was reported as two different women, I chose the one that would enhance my narrative. I would never deliberately change a well-known or significant fact to fit my narrative, but when a detail is of little consequence or extremely hard or even impossible to find, I took the novelist’s license to make it work for the benefit of the story. Similarly, when research does not reveal the personality and character of historic figures—Alphonsine, Angèle, Fionie, Madame Charpentier, and Baron Raoul Barbier, for example—I am free to create according to my own delight so long as what I devise is consistent with the time and place and social level of the individual.

In your opinion, what drove Renoir to paint? Were those motivations universal among his peers? Among contemporary painters?

Love, of course. He’s French, above all. And he’s a sensualist. Love for women, the river, Paris, cafés, color, the physicality of the medium, the act of working, brushstroke after brushstroke, all of these passions kept him painting, through good press and bad, through poverty and wealth, through confident times and self-doubt, through debilitating illness and pain, always yearning to learn more, express more, command more facility, to grasp the elusive play of light, the warm and convivial magic of a moment, the exquisite individuality of a woman or child or blossom, working at it with the devotion of a monk until a matter of hours before his death.

To a large extent, his contemporaries felt similar dedications, but I can’t speak for their motivations, or the motivations of contemporary painters. I don’t believe any of the painters in Renoir’s circle enjoyed the rich gooeyness of the paint more than Renoir did.

Renoir struggled to stay with the committed group of Impressionists. Why do you suppose this commitment lasted as long as it did? What was it about his friendships with Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet, and Alfred Sisley that was so brilliant?

A bond formed when these artists rejected together the stiff, arbitrary rules of academic painting that had no relationship to the world they saw around them in Paris and in the rural areas beyond. Together, these four left the academy to paint en plein air in the Forest of Fontainebleau. They drew strength from each other in forging new painting methods, new and revolutionary brushwork, and new subject matter depicting the present rather than the past, and in finding new painting sites. There were endless hours of discussion and argument in the cafés, especially Café Guerbois and later Café Nouvelle-Athènes, argument being part of the French artistic soul. Nevertheless, these painters had profound respect for each other, and for the work of their precursor Edouard Manet, and their contemporaries Berthe Morisot and Paul Cézanne as well. Seeing a painting by Cézanne in Père Tanguy’s art-supply shop, Renoir thinks, The man pressed on through solitude and howling criticism, finding his ecstasy in laying his individuality on canvas after canvas, and then says aloud, “With a saint’s devotion.” Such deep-seated valuing of each other’s work and struggles and bravery characterized the core group of Impressionists.

How could he break away from the solidarity that had kept them all going through the lean years? But how could he not follow his own inclinations if they led him in a different direction than theirs? Caillebotte worked with a tighter hand, and Cézanne worked more structurally than in Monet’s feathery strokes. They pursued their own way. In the end, only Monet and Morisot remained faithful to the wispy, broken stroke. In order to keep progressing, Renoir ultimately had to follow his own direction. Interestingly, though, the Impressionist stroke resurfaced from time to time all of his life.

Have you found any differences in writing about male artists versus female artists? As a woman, was it difficult to inhabit the voice of Renoir? How did you manage to do it?

I suppose it’s easier for most writers to create and vivify characters of their own gender. If Renoir wasn’t an artist, with a painter’s sensibility and sensitivity, which some think are aspects of the feminine domain, it would have been more difficult. Actually, I rather enjoyed moments when I could have him do something generally termed masculine—like kicking something out of anger, swearing, being coarse. He was no lily-white angel, you know. How did I do it? Ah, that’s the office of the imagination.

Do you think the creative processes for writers and artists are similar? How so?

Just as some painters are intuitive in their approach and others are intellectual or analytical, planning out every square inch of canvas, so are some writers intuitive, working scene by scene as though feeling their way in a cave, and others are intellectual, working from a preconceived plan or even a scene-by-scene outline. Of course, this isn’t a definitive difference. Rather, it’s a continuum, for both the painter and the writer.

What is the value of writing fiction about art? What does it allow you to address?

The value of writing about art is its effect on the imagination. Paintings allow us to inhabit another culture, place, and time period, and address the issues of those time periods that resonate with our own time.

Take the motif of a painting of figures around a dining table. What vastly different insights we get from an Italian depiction of the opulent Marriage Feast at Cana by Veronese; Degas’ The Absinthe Drinker, portraying the vacant, despairing stare of the woman; van Gogh’s humble, struggling, yet interacting peasants in The Potato Eaters; and Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Each one whisks us into a very different mental and social milieu and asks of us to live these lives for a moment, thus expanding our sense of humanity.

Each time we enter imaginatively into the life of another, it’s a small step upward in the elevation of the human race. When there is no imagination of others’ lives, there is no human connection, and therefore no compassion. Without compassion, then community, commitment, loving kindness, human understanding, and peace—all shrivel. Individuals become isolated, the isolated can turn cruel, and the tragic hovers. Art—and literature—are antidotes to that.


  • How do you think Renoir’s humble beginnings affected his life and his painting?
  • Describe what you think was going through Renoir’s mind as he took on the technical challenge of this painting. Was he ready for this? How was he to achieve the perspective? Position the figures? Anchor the terrace? Convey the river below?
  • Besides Renoir, how do other characters explore the issue of creative expression? In whom is this yearning most deeply felt? What effect does the gathering of these people have on each other? While reading this book, could you imagine being a model in the painting? What would it have been like for you? Elaborate on how you would have fit in or not.
  • Discuss the level of commitment each character had to the painting. How did their involvement affect the painting? Do you relate to any one of the characters in the painting Luncheon of the Boating Party?
  • How do the separate models’ plots act upon the progress of the painting and enlighten a single common theme? Which of the male models is your favorite? And of the female models? Why does each hold a place in your affections?
  • How did the fact that there was time pressure to finish the painting affect its result? Would the painting have turned out differently if Renoir had had more time to work on it?
  • Renoir seems to fall in love over and over again with the two things he most adored: the female form and the riverscape. He saw one woman as color, another as line. Was there something about the season in which he was painting and his relationships with Aline and Alphonsine that contributed to the overall effect of the image?
  • Why did Renoir hate the term “Impressionist” so much?
  • What does Luncheon of the Boating Party suggest about finding oneself in life and in love? Is there something unique about the way an artist finds his or her way?
  • In what ways, if any, did the novel surprise you? How do you react to a novel that incorporates real and well-known people as characters? Did anything in the novel affect the way you had previously thought about Renoir? Impressionism? French culture?
  • What in the story of this painting gives you a fresh perspective on understanding and developing the relationships and creative inclinations in your own life?

For further exploration and discussion of Luncheon of the Boating Party, please visit the author’s Web site,, where additional discussion questions and a teachers’ guide are available.

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Luncheon of the Boating Party 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend had suggested the audio version, but being a lover of books I chose the book. I love Impressionist art and even had a print of the subject painting in my home. I'm really enjoying the details and personality quirks of the characters and how the author has wound the history and politics and fashion of the time into the story. Looking forward to another!!
katknit More than 1 year ago
What goes through an artist's mind during the act of creating a painting? Susan Vreeland makes that question the theme of Luncheon of the Boating Party. Generally agreed to be one of Renoir's masterpieces, Luncheon is a huge canvas depicting fourteen people enjoying a repast at an inn along the River Seine. Renoir is depicted at the pivotal point in his career when he was struggling to decide whether to persist with the impressionist genre, or to incorporate more formal techniques and styles. Provoked by a critical comment from Emile Zola, he embarks upon a quest to produce a work to serve as the definitive rebuttal. Vreeland immerses her readers within the heart of Montmartre and the romantic Parisian ideal of "modern life". A joyous commingling of street scenes and cafe society, artists and models, dealers and yachtsmen, Luncheon is an earthy, incandescent evocation of one of the art world's most momentous eras. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The rich characters and luscious landscapes of Paris and the surrounding countryside made this book so much fun to read. Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very interesting fictional book based on Renoir's famous painting. The people in this painting have actually been identified. The author has built a story around the diverse people in the painting and the interaction between them as they got together to pose for this painting. It is not filled with a lot of action but is more a description of the people and how Renoir might have painted this work of art.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very enjoyable read, filled with atmosphere of the period. Interesting insights into the picture and the artist's struggle to depict an idea. Very descriptive of the relationships among the people portrayed.
lubs2read More than 1 year ago
This book is great! If you love Renoir (and I do) then you will appreciate this book. It really brings the artist to life and the painting as well. I have enjoyed this author before and look forward to reading more of her books. This would make an excellent gift for impressionist art lovers! I recommend this book to all!
tututhefirst on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Essentially the story of how August Renoir came to paint this painting, "Luncheon of the Boating Party", and the people he chose to include in the painting. Along the way, the reader is treated to French history, art history, culinary scenes guaranteed to make you hungry, art lessons, and an engaging view of "la vie moderne". Our book club all decided it could have done with between 50-100 less pages.There were 14 people in this painting, including Renoir's future wife, and it was hard at the beginning to sort out who was who. I was able to get a 'map' of the painting from the Phillips Collection website (in Washington DC where the painting now lives). With that in hand, I was able to enjoy the author's framework...she tells the story of how impressionism was under attack at the time, how the artists had to resort to various painting endeavors to make enough money to live on, and were always in debt. The lives of boaters, restaurateurs, mimes, seamstresses, actresses are all told as vividly as the painting. We also learn how the painting is constructed from the time the canvas is stretched until it is finished. Included is the story of the beginning of the modern art gallery dealer model we still have today. A definite read for anyone who is Renoir fan.
amandacb on LibraryThing 4 days ago
I enjoyed this fictionalized glimpse into Renoir's life as he went about painting Luncheon of the Boating Party. It opened my eyes into how much work and soul went into a piece of art. Plus, reading about Renoir's personal life was vastly interesting.
judithrs on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Luncheon of the Boating Party. Susan Vreeland. 2007. What a wonderful book for a painter and a Francophile to read! It is the story based on fact of how Auguste Renoir decided to paint the picture of ¿Luncheon of the Boating Party,¿ I loved the descriptions of Renoir¿s actual painting, his ideas about art and painting, and the birth of the Impressionist movement. At first I got the people confused but I went online to the Phillips Collection in DC and found a ¿map¿ of the picture and wrote in all the names on the painting. This novel is for people who like to read about painting and late 19th century Paris.
Kasthu on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Luncheon of the Boating Party is a truly excellent book. Set in the Summer of 1880 in Paris and Chatou, the novel follows the story of the famous painting by Auguste Renoir, now in the Phillips Collection in DC. Egged on by an article written by Emile Zola, Renoir begins painting an idyllic scene on the balcony of the Maison Fournaise, of thirteen friends. The story is intriguing because it¿s told from the point of view not just of Renoir, but the models in the painting. We¿re introduced, for example, to Augustine Fournaise, daughter of the owner of the restaurant, and Gustave Caillebotte the artist. We also meet Aline Charigot, the seamstress who later married Renoir. The iconic painting represents a mingling of classes as they devote a Sunday to the pursuit of leisure.In all of this, Vreeland creates a beautiful novel that combines the realistic with the idealistic. We¿re also introduced to the fascinating artistic process Renoir¿s mind went through. It¿s a well-written and researched novel. Vreeland is in her element when she writes about art, and Luncheon of the Boating Party is no exception. What helps is that the painting appears right on the cover¿I guarantee you¿ll turn back to the painting many times as you read. There are also illustrations inside, including a map of Paris and Chatou.
sallysvenson on LibraryThing 4 days ago
Although I usually hate fictionalized biography, I enjoyed this imagined account of Renoir's painting of one of his best-known works, and, unexpectedly, enjoy the painting itself more now that I know something about the background of its setting and real-life models. It is a warm and sunny painting, and Vreeland's book captures its spirit.
PaperbackPirate on LibraryThing 4 days ago
What a great story! The author actually researched every person in the painting Luncheon of the Boating Party (except 1 whose identity is debatable) and Renoir himself, and made it all into a super cool historical fiction story. The story spans the 2 months Renoir took to paint it outside. Even though there are 14 people in the painting, Renoir, the paint store owners, and art dealers stories to hear, it didn't drag.My favorite part was a story about the girl who's leaning on her hand on the railing in the painting. She recalls starving in her house during Franco-Prussian War (before the painting). She was lucky to get horse meat rationed to her. During the painting she decides to go back to that old house and finds it's now a food store. She goes inside and has an incredible moment looking at all this food and remembering starving on the floor. It was a moving scene.Also I learned that Renoir and Monet were friends in real life! Whoa. What a time.If you enjoy art or historical fiction you will probably like Luncheon of the Boating Party.
dgoo on LibraryThing 4 days ago
If you like Tracy Chevalier you'll probably enjoy Vreeland's works. This is a realistically imaginative account of a portion of Renoir's life involving his creation of one of his best known works, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, a painting of his friends dining and enjoying life on the balcony of the Maison Fournaise restaurant, in a changing French society of the late 1800's.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read it nonstop.
readerba15 More than 1 year ago
A wonderful, wonderful book. It moves you right into the middle of the group and you are part of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the characters and the background of Renoir's painting. I loved reading about the people in the painting and the life of Renoir and the culture of France. It was amazing to learn that the people were real. I would have loved to meet them all. This is another fine book by Ms. Vreeland. This a must read for those who love the Impressionist artists.
leopardiNJ More than 1 year ago
In the summer of 1880 at a restaurant along the banks of the Seine downstream from Paris, goaded on by the taunts of Emil Zola, Pierre-Auguste Renoir set out to produce the definitive masterpiece of Impressionism. Over a period of several weeks during that summer Renoir assembled a troupe of friends and models, posing them on the upper terrace of the restaurant La Maison Fournaise overlooking the Seine. The author details both the artistic (such as eliminating the appearance of scene floating in air) and the practical (such as coming up with fourteen rather than thirteen characters) challenges faced by Renoir in producing the huge canvas. Susan Vreeland has written a story of that titled work, Le déjeuner des canotiers, The Luncheon of the Boating Party, that simultaneously captures both the artistic temperament of the Renoir and the personalities of the models in the masterwork. The author skillfully employs a grammar and structure that mimics in words what Impressionism meant to deliver on the canvas. Only toward the end of the book does Vreeland drift occasionally into bits of modern language and political correctness that mars somewhat a text that is otherwise historically and artistically accurate.
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