Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881, French: Le déjeuner des canotiers) is a painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It is currently housed in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
The painting depicts a group of Renoir's friends relaxing on a balcony at the Maison Fournaise along the Seine river in Chatou, France. The painter and art patron, Gustave Caillebotte, is seated in the lower right. Renoir's future wife, Aline Charigot, is in the foreground playing with a small dog. In this painting Renoir has captured a great deal of light. As you can see the main focus of light is coming from the large opening in the balcony, beside the large singleted man in the hat. The singlets of both men in the foreground and the table-cloth both work together to reflect this light and send it through the whole composition.
It was featured prominently in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain released in English as Amélie (2001). The most prominent reference is a comparison between the film's protagonist, Amélie, and the woman in the centre sipping a glass, seemingly gazing out of the canvas, uninterested, while everyone else is enjoying the day together. A homage to this painting appears in the final panel of On the False Earths, the seventh volume of Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin's long-running comic book series Valérian and Laureline.
One of the main things that can be noticed in the image is near the bottom left, Aline Charigot is sitting with a dog. Aline was a seamstress who Renoir would later marry. Caillebotte, an avid boatman and sailor who painted many images of these activities, is portrayed in a white boater's shirt and flat-topped straw boater's hat.
In the background, wearing a top hat, the wealthy amateur art historian, collector, and editor of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts is depicted, Charles Ephrussi. He seems to be speaking with a younger man wearing a more casual brown coat and cap, who may be Jules Laforgue (a poet, critic and personal secretary of Ephrussi). In the center, the actress Ellen Andrée is drinking from a glass, Baron Raoul Barbier seems to be seated across from her. Alphonsine Fournaise, the daughter of the proprieter seems to be the women smiling and leaning on the railing. Wearing traditional straw boaters, both she, and her brother, Alphonse Fournaise Jr., who was responsible for the boat rentals and stands at the far left of the composition, are placed within, but at the edge, of the party.
Paul Lhote, an artist, and Eugène Pierre Lestringez seem to be the other two men wearing boaters, they were quite close friends with Renoir. Renoir often used his friends in his paintings. Both Paul and Eugène seem to be flirting with the actress Jeanne Samary in the upper right hand corner of this master piece. The youthful Gustava Caillebotte is sittings backwards in his chair in the right foreground and is seen next to Angèle and the journalist Maggiolo.
The campaigning body ArtWatch International has drawn attention to the cleaning of this picture, which it regards as unnecessary and having resulted in a loss of tone. The ArtWatch UK Journal 22 (Autumn 2007) quoted Sheldon Keck (the cleaner of the picture) from his work 'Some Picture Cleaning Controversies: Past and Present' (1984):
In the 1950s, Mrs Keck and I attended a dinner party where an internationally known British connoisseur attacked the cleaning of paintings in general insisting that artists counted on the mellowing effects of time to enhance the harmony of their designs and colours. He was perhaps unaware that he echoed a 300 year old contention. One of the other guests inquired whether the gentleman had viewed the Phillips Collection's Renoir 'Boating Party' since it had been cleaned (by us, as most of those around the table knew). 'It is ruined,' he said, 'ruined... the harmony of the whole has been destroyed, the glazes have all been stripped away... I stood in front of it and I wept.' Defence was undertaken by Mrs Keck and if she may have exceeded normal dinner party proprieties, her statements were eminently accurate. We had photographically documented the painting, even made a color movie of our cleaning, and every solvent swab used on the surface had been saved in large jars.
to revisit an especially beloved image: Renoir's 'Luncheon of the Boating Party'. I found that this sunnily celebratory masterpiece had been moved from its central position to a dark side room, as if in shame, and I could easily understand why. Its blossomy colours appeared dried out, droopy and half-awry. The seated figure in the foreground had been reduced to corpse grey. Barging angrily into Duncan Phillips' office, I asked for an explanation. Tears misted the old gentleman's eyes. 'Well,' he told me mournfully, 'I sent the picture to our mutual friends - you know the restorers I mean. The best in the business, right?' Mr Phillips paused to wave away an imaginary fly. 'I'd asked them to iron out a small blister on the surface and then forward the canvas to Paris for a major exhibition at the Louvre. Deciding that my prize acquisition needed cleaning, they went ahead with that. The people at the Louvre at first refused to accept the resultant ruin as a Renoir! Fortunately we were able to put them straight because our friends had taken the precaution of filming their work on the canvas. I have a copy of the film, which you're welcome to view. In it you'll notice actual colour-stains coming off on the cotton swabs. But please, for God's sake, don't report this tragedy. It's too dreadful.