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Luncheon of the Boating Party

Page history last edited by Prospect Heights Library 12 years, 6 months ago

Luncheon of the Boating Party


Renoir, then 39 and living in Paris, France, supports himself by painting society women in their parlors.  He dreams of breaking new ground in art -  repeating safe, easy methods suffocated him.  Alphonsine Fournaise, the daughter of the owner of the Maison Fournaise Cafe, suggests that he should paint from the café’s terrace facing the river.  This café is also a hotel and boat rental frequented by writers and artists.  He asks his friends to pose, and for several Sundays he treats them to lunch while he tackles the difficult project of painting 13 people at once.  He must work quickly because he only has two months to catch the light he needs.



The book’s title and cover depict Renoir’s masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party.  The painting is currently housed in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D. C.   The story is about the famous Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).  Impressionism was a 19th century art movement by Paris-based artists exhibiting their art in public.  Some characteristics of Impressionist painting are visible brush strokes, light and its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of the perception of movement and unusual visual angles.  For more information on the Impressionist movement and artists go to WebMuseum: Impressionism ; the 19th Century Paris Project offers some insight on fashion, social classes and music. 

For more information on the painter, his friends, and  Impressionism, visit the Art Institute of Chicago, the Louvre, and the Musee D'Orsay




The story takes place in July 1880, a time when Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian War.  This war was waged between France, Prussia and the German states from July 15, 1870 to February 1, 1871.  Renoir took on this most challenging project at a time when diverging styles were tearing apart the Impressionist group.  The author illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era.  We get a glimpse of the vibrant, captivating characters as the author describes their lives, loves, and losses.




Books and DVDs on Impressionism at our Library:

The New Painting, Impressionism, 1874-1886  (Oversize 759.4 NEW)

The Impressionists and Their Art by Russell Ash  (759.054 ASH)

The Great Book of French Impressionism by Diane Kelder  (Oversize 759.054 KEL)

The Impressionists  (DVD IMP)

The Private Life of a Masterpiece  (DVD 709 PRI Set)



Books and DVDs on Paris, France at our Library:

Buying a Piece of Paris: finding a key to the city of love by Ellie Nielsen

Walk & Talk. Paris  (Audio CD 914.436 WAL)

Paris Discovered: explorations in the City of Light by Mary Sperling McAuliffe (944.361 MCA)

1001 Paintings of the Louvre: from antiquity to the nineteenth century   (708.4361 ONE)

The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930s by William Wiser  (944.360815 WIS)

Europe to the Max. Great cities of Europe  (DVD 914 EUR)


You can also find more information in our databases:

CultureGrams will give you detailed information about France, it's history, customs, and famous people.

Magazine Index-Gale One File – Infotrac has various periodicals which have articles on Renoir, new angles on Impressionism, and identifies Renoir’s friends who modeled in The Luncheon of the Boating Party.



For A Brief History of French Food visit www.waitrose.com/food and for more on French cuisine visit www.discoverfrance.net.


Books and DVDs on French Cuisine at our Library:

My Life in France by Julia Child  (book and audio 921 CHILD)

French Women Do Not Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano  (613.25 GUI)

The French Chef with Julia Child  (DVD 641.5944 FRE set)

On rue Tatin: living and cooking in a French town by Susan Herrmann Loomis (641.59442 LOO)

French Lessons: adventures with knife, fork, and corkscrew by Peter Mayle (641.5944 MAY)

The Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells  (641.5944 WEL)

The Essential French Cookbook: 50 classic recipes, with step-by-step photographs (641.5944 ESS)

Provence Quilts and Cuisine by Marie-Christine Flocard  (746.46 FLO)

ABC of French Food by Len Deighton  (641.5944 DEI




Other Books by Susan Vreeland:

Girl In Hyacinth Blue (artist-Johannes Vermeer)

The Passion of Artemisia (artist-Artemisia Gentileschi)

Life Studies: stories

The Forest Lover

What Love Sees


Readalike Authors:

The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman

Johanna: a novel of the van Gogh family by Claire Cooperstein

The Agony and the Ecstasy: a novel of Michelangelo


Historical Fiction:

The God of Spring by Arabella Edge

The Ruby Ring by Diane Heger

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig

Visit Novelist for more historical fiction titles.



Visit Reading Group Guides for a summary of the book and book discussion questions.

Visit the Literature Resource Center for critical information on authors and their works.












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