Recognized as one of the greatest achievements of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s career, Luncheon of the Boating Party (Le Déjeuner des canotiers) (1880–81) is a marvel of plein-air painting on a grand scale. The first exhibition to focus specifically on this singular masterwork, Renoir and Friends features more than 40 carefully chosen works—paintings, drawings, pastels, prints, and photographs from public and private collections around the world—that uncover the circumstances leading up to the painting’s creation, the diverse and fascinating circle of friends who inspired it, and the complex evolution of the work itself, mostly painted on the balcony of the Fournaise restaurant in Chatou.
Success came slowly to Renoir. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 caused economic depression in France. Impressionism was controversial and not well received by tradition-bound critics and institutions. But the establishment of the Third Republic brought a tide of optimism and prosperity that lifted Renoir’s fortunes toward the end of the decade. Keenly aware of the value of personal contacts and social connections, the artist cultivated the support of writers who understood and praised his work and collectors who purchased, and soon, in greater numbers, commissioned portraits and decorations.
Among those who helped him weather the challenging years of the 1870s were the very individuals who modeled in 1880 for Luncheon of the Boating Party. A diverse group of men and women, these friends offered Renoir essential support and encouragement; especially important were his wife and frequent model Aline Charigot, artist and boating enthusiast Gustave Caillebotte, and art critic and collector Charles Ephrussi. Renoir and Friends brings to life each of the friends the artist chose as inspiration for the work that remains an icon of Impressionism.
The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection.
With the generous support of The Florence Gould Foundation
Additional support is provided by the Ednah Root Foundation, the MARPAT Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Robert Lehman Foundation, Sotheby’s, and Steve and Andrea Strawn.
Brought to you by the Exhibition Committee for Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party
Additional in-kind support provided by
Founder Duncan Phillips first encountered Luncheon of the Boating Party in 1911 while he was in Europe and the painting was owned by the artist’s dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. A few years later in a 1914 essay, Phillips was still taken by the masterpiece and wrote that it captured the essence of “life’s vivacity” and the pleasures of “men and women lunching up the river on a hot holiday, the fitful breeze flapping the awnings and the general discussion becoming of more importance than the dessert.”
While preparing to establish a museum of modern art and its sources, Phillips started an acquisition strategy that identified significant masterworks to serve as the collection’s foundation; Renoir’s painting was at the top of his wish list. In 1923, only 18 months after the museum opened and just over a decade since Phillips first saw the painting, the Phillips Memorial Gallery purchased the work for the record-breaking sum of $125,000. Phillips wrote to his treasurer: “The big Renoir deal has gone through with Durand-Ruel and the Phillips Memorial Gallery is to be the possessor of one of the greatest paintings in the world. Luncheon of the Boating Party is the masterpiece by Renoir and finer than any Rubens—as fine as any Titian or Giorgione. . . . Its fame is tremendous and people will travel thousands of miles to our house to see it. It will do more good arousing interest and support for our project than all the rest of our collection put together. Such a picture creates a sensation wherever it goes.”
Just as Phillips imagined it would be when he bought the painting in 1923, Luncheon of the Boating Party remains the best known and most popular work of art at The Phillips Collection.
Image: Marjorie and Duncan Phillips, c. 1954
Luncheon of the Boating Party for K–12 Educators
Explore Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s life, process, and influences that shaped the creation of Luncheon of the Boating Party on the Prism.K12 website for educators. Learn about the artist and the masterwork through delving into the social, political, and economic changes occurring in France in the late 19th century.
This online resource is part of Prism.K12, an innovative teaching tool for K–12 teachers of any subject to create rich arts-integrated curricula. The site offers ideas for individual, group, and classroom activities, such as investigating the science of color, writing poems, researching fashion, and more.
Lunch with Ladurée
Ladurée D.C. (3060 M. Street, NW) offers guests a limited edition menu inspired by the scene set in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s iconic Luncheon of the Boating Party. Purchase of the menu includes admission to Renoir and Friends at the Phillips. Enjoy through January 7, 2018.
Have your own Luncheon of the Boating Party
The Phillips Collection has teamed up with Entertainment Cruises to let you step inside Renoir’s masterpiece. Enjoy a “Luncheon of the Boating Party” experience aboard the glass-enclosed Odyssey, available for any lunch or brunch cruise. Tickets include a 10% discount for lunch aboard the ship, and free admission to Renoir and Friends at The Phillips Collection (redeemable through January 7, 2018). Use promo code RENOIR10 at online checkout or mention when you book via phone at 866.306.2469. Exhibition tickets will be provided on the cruise.
#RenoirAndFriends (and dogs!)
Share pictures with your pet to win prizes
Dogs have long been a symbol of loyalty in art history. Renoir paints Aline Charigot, a seamstress he had recently met and would later marry, cooing at a dog in his iconic Luncheon of the Boating Party. Grab your favorite pet and share your best re-creation of this scene using #RenoirAndFriends for a chance to win monthly prizes including artist materials, Renoir-inspired items from the shop, exhibition tickets, and more.