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A boatmen breakfast with Pierre-Auguste Renoir

A boatmen breakfast with Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Aline has always had a weakness for puppies, especially when they are small and playful, so much so that to cuddle them better she has the bad habit of putting them on the table.

Gustave, who is sitting backwards on the chair on the other side of the table, also loves puppies, and probably he loves Aline too. The chatter of his neighbours Angèle and Antonio is of no interest to him: he is focused with rapt attention on the girl's cheerful face, exalted by the shapes and colours of those beautiful flowers on the edge of her straw hat.

Next to Aline, a bit in the background with a panama hat on his head, is Mr. Fournoise, owner of the restaurant. Leaning on the railing, he stares into space absorbed in his thoughts. After all, the tables are all fine, the bottles of wine are full, there's plenty of fruit and the guests are in the mood to talk, even the ones furthest away: Alphonsine, Pierre, Paul, Jules.…

In short, there's no doubt, it's a wonderful morning, it's so cool under the awning, drinking and eating surrounded by lush nature, while in the background someone is sailing.

The Auberge of Père Fournoise is a popular venue, visited not only by the boatmen who row the waters of the Seine during the day, but also by the bohemian Paris looking for entertainment outside the city.

The 14 guests are all linked by a shared friendship, Jean Renoir, the author of the painting, who asked them to sit for his quick impressionist brush. In a perfect world, Renoir would have hired some models, but everyone knows that painters like him have little money, and they don't like set poses: they prefer situations with little imperfections that add a vibrant energy to their subjects.

It is perhaps this interest in reality that, coupled with a composition that is a bit lopsided and with great attention to the play of light, gives the whole picture a photographic flavour. With his light and stringy brush strokes, seemingly distracted but always attentive to the balance between contrasting colours, Renoir captures the fleeting nature of a moment in life: an intimate breakfast among friends who love the good life, under the shelter of an awning, enveloped in a harmony of lights, colours and passions worthy of being remembered forever.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1882, oil on canvas, 129.5 x 172.5, Phillips Collection,Washington

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