Auguste Renoir. Painting Breakfast of the Rowers, 1881

Painting Breakfast of the Rowers by Auguste Renoir

Auguste Renoir. Painting Breakfast of the Rowers, 1881
Auguste Renoir. Painting Breakfast of the Rowers, 1881

Painting Breakfast of the Rowers by Auguste Renoir – a relaxed atmosphere of a country vacation for Parisians at the end of the 19th century

The Rowers’ Breakfast is a famous painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1881. The canvas depicts the outdoor summer terrace of a rowing club located on the banks of the Seine. At the table gathered men in tracksuits for rowers and ladies in secular outfits.

Behind them, other guests of the establishment who have left the city to relax in the fresh air are chatting, drinking and having fun. On the white tablecloth in the foreground is an elaborate still life. Glasses, wine glasses and wine bottles harmoniously resonate with fruits and grapes.

The newly built railway bridge in the background is almost hidden by a red and white striped awning, but it is a confirmation of the modernity of the event. The work, executed with smooth, soft strokes, conveys a lively atmosphere and a relaxed mood of the assembled audience, pleases the viewer with the richness of form, the play of sun glare and the skill of the author.

The title of the painting: “The Rowers’ Breakfast” (fr. Le Déjeuner des canotiers).
Author: Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).
Year of writing: 1881
Dimensions: 129.5 x 172.7 cm.
Style: Impressionism.
Genre: Household scene. Group portrait. Still life. Landscape.
Technique: Oil painting.
Material: Canvas.
Location: The Phillips Collection, Washington.

Pierre Auguste Renoir is a famous French painter and a prominent representative of impressionism of the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries.

Like many artists of that time, he often visited the outskirts of Paris, made sketches of local views, went to the restaurant of the country club Maison Fournaise – a favorite place for rest of the capital’s public. The painting “Rowers’ Breakfast” shows the terrace of this particular establishment.

The master worked on the creation of the genre scene for several months. He painted the landscape in nature, then from plein air painting he switched to studio work. He painted figures of people in the studio, inviting them to pose alone or in small groups.

Renoir’s acquaintances and close friends became models:

  • The girl in the lower left corner with a small dog in her arms – Alina Sharigo – is the author’s beloved, who later became his wife.
  • The man towering over her in a white sports T-shirt and a straw boater hat – Alphonse Fournez – is the son of the owner of the club, in which the action depicted in the picture takes place.
  • His sister, Louise-Alfonsina Fournaise, stands a little further away, leaning on the railing.
  • The man in the white sports T-shirt and straw hat sitting on the unfolded chair on the right is the French collector and artist Gustave Caillebotte.
  • A woman in a secular outfit who turned her gaze on him is the flower girl Angel Lego, who later chose the path of a model and an actress.
  • The man leaning over her in a light jacket is journalist Antonio Maggiolo.
  • Drinking from a glass in the center of the composition – actress Ellen Andre. In addition to Auguste Renoir, she often posed for Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.
  • Opposite her, with his back to the viewer, sits Baron Barbier, who once headed the mayor’s office in colonial Saigon.
  • The man in the black top hat in the background is Charles Ephrussi, a wealthy amateur art critic, collector and editor of an art magazine.
  • His interlocutor, casually dressed in a brown frock coat and cap, is the critic Jules Laforgue, who does the work of his personal secretary.
  • Renoir’s close friends, Eugene Pierre Lestrenge and Paul Lot, are depicted in the upper right corner.
  • They flirt with the actress Jeanne Samary, who has played the role of a model in several of Renoir’s works.
Despite the seeming spontaneity, the plot of the work was carefully verified.

An interesting find was the division of the composition by the railing of the fence diagonally into two parts, one of which was densely filled with people, and the other was almost empty. Another unusual detail – the intersection of the edge of the awning with the sail of the boat – the artist combined the foreground and distant plans of the painting.

Presented at the Seventh Exhibition of the Impressionists in 1882, The Rowers’ Breakfast was warmly received by the public and highly praised by several of the most famous critics. Paul de Charry of Le Pays found the painting “fresh, free and moderately obscene.” And Armand Silvestre in the edition of La Vie Moderne called it the best work written by Renoir, in which “absolutely wonderful, true drawing is the result of juxtaposition of shades, not lines.”

Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Breakfast of the Rowers became one of the artist’s greatest genre works and the most famous outdoor picnic in visual art history. Immediately after the exhibition in 1882, it was acquired by the dealer-patron Paul Durand-Ruel for a large sum of 15 thousand francs for those times. And 41 years later, she went to Duncan Phillips, who spent ten years looking for this job and paid 125 thousand dollars for it.