The work of art I have selected for this critique is the oil on canvas painting titled Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre Augusta Renoir of France. The artwork is currently hosted at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, as part of its resident collections.
The painting was done in the year 1881and was guided by real-life models all of whom being Renoir’s friends who had gathered on the balcony of the Maison Fournaise, a boat commonly found in Chatou, France. The boat was floating along the Seine River and apart from the roof, its balcony was open to an impressive view (Renoir, 1881).
The positioning of the artist was such that he was able to achieve a well-balanced painting aside from capitalizing on the dispersion of light to obtain clear and appealing images. The light was also used to capture the mood of the event and Renoir made sure that he used all available reflectors to ensure that the painting was evenly lit. From what we can pick out of the painting, the light mostly came from an opening to the side of the balcony. To ensure that the light was evenly spread across the entire composition, Renoir used the white singlets of the two men as well as the large tablecloth in the foreground to disperse it as per his requirements.
To obtain a well-spaced composition and still illustrate the celebratory mood of the event, Renoir made an effort to ensure that he could get in as many characters as possible in the background and then put fewer individuals in the foreground. By so doing, the painting developed some elements of space without making the party look empty.
As far as the usage of color is concerned, the artist made sure that white colors stood prominently in the foreground, middle-ground, and background of the painting. This was contrasted with an almost uniform usage of black colors to avoid a bleaching effect. The usage of color in this painting is most impressive with the background having some lighter tones and the foreground bearing some darker shades bring about the element of distance from the balcony to the trees in the far background.
The mood of the painting is celebratory, with the artist trying to illustrate that the characters presented in the composition were having a good time. aside from the strategic use of light and color, Renoir managed to lighten the mood of the scene by properly capturing the happy looks on the faces of the characters as well as ensure that the positioning of the characters was in such a way that it depicted some sense of interaction.
Personal involvement with the painting
Initially, my attention to the painting was almost drawn to focus on the three characters in the right foreground of the composition. At first, I thought that the man wearing a white shirt and a black tie, and leaning in towards the two seated characters was a waiter taking an order. It is only after focusing on the literature and paying further attention to the entire scenario that I was able to figure out that this was a boat.
The lady playing with the dog (Aline Chariot), also captured my attention and I kept wondering why she had chosen to ignore the bulky man in a white singlet next to her, and instead focus her attention on the dog. After completing the assignment I was also in a position to notice more individuals in the background and even appreciate the various interactions at the time of the party. The artist in this case was trying to illustrate his fascination with the happenings of the time, enough to document them using his painting skills.
From the personal experience in this project, I was able to see much more from the work of art after I was done with the analysis than the first time I looked at the painting. Artistic form, subject matter, and content work together to send out the desired message of a composition. From this analytical experience, it is easy to notice how the three work together. The painting would not have relayed the same message had the colors and lighting been ignored or if Renoir had chosen to ignore the importance of balancing the subjects in the work.
Renoir, P.A., 1881, Oil on canvas. Luncheon of the boating party. Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.