Sunday, January 25, 2015

Impressionism: Moon Tang talks on Renoir's Two Sisters(On the Terrace), 1881.

Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Title: ‘Two Sisters’/ ‘On the Terrace’
Year: 1881
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 100.5 x 80 cm

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was an important French impressionist artist who was famous for painting women and warm family scenes. When the time he visited Chatou, where Renoir considered as ‘the most pleasant of all Paris suburbs’[1], in 1881, he painted one of his most popular paintings, ‘Two Sisters’. ‘Two Sisters’, or ‘On the Terrace’ which is the second title given by its first owner Paul Durand-Ruel, is an oil-on-canvas painting with the dimensions of 100.5cm x 80cm. It was painted at the terrace of Maison Fournaise, a restaurant in Chatou.

As shown in its names, the painting depicted two sisters, who were in fact not real sisters but two unrelated models for the painting, on the terrace of the restaurant with a basket of colourful wool. The elder sister, who was wearing a scarlet hat and dark blue dress, was sitting and looking left with her dark narrowed eyes, seems to be thinking of something, while the younger girl wearing white dress and blue hat with fresh flowers standing next to her was looking straight to the spectators with her bright and innocent blue eyes. For the background, there were vines and white flowers that just came into bloom, sparse trees and leaves in pale green. It showed that it was in the time of spring. In between the gaps of the branches, there were some boats along the river. Such lively scene with the two sisters, who were both in springtime of their life, gives spectators a feeling of tranquil, warm and joy.

As mentioned, ‘On the Terrace’ was painted by an impressionist during the time when impressionist style was popular. Thus, this painting did include some characteristics and techniques that are unique to impressionism as well.

First, the artwork was painted with visible brushstroke, which was very common in impressionist paintings. The artists before the rise of impressionism usually mixed the colours well when painting. This means that, for instance, they would paint the object with a pure blue colour when they were depicting something blue. If some other colours were essential, such as black for shadow, they would mix up two colours well. Later, since impressionists discovered that the colour of different parts of an object would, in fact, have tiny differences under light, they tried to present such differences they observed by painting the artworks with unmixed and visible brushstroke, which became one of the important characteristics of impressionist style. In ‘Two Sisters’, no matter it is the trees, river, flowers or the hats and dresses of the sisters, all brushstrokes can be clearly seen. Take the white dress of the younger girl as an example. Instead of depicting the dress with a large area of well-mixed white paint, Renoir seems to be painting the dress with his brush one stroke followed by another so as to ensure different colours of paints had little mixing. Thus, every brushstrokes, which are in white, blue and orange, on the dress are visible. The leaves behind the sisters as well, each stroke of the yellow and green paint can be seen clearly. Such kind of technique, in some way, enables the colour of objects depicted become more natural and vivid, and thus makes the artworks become more realistic. The only exceptions in the painting may be the faces of the two sisters, which are relatively smooth and delicate.

Second, the subject matter of the painting is similar to the common theme in impressionism. Different from the realist who mainly focused on political events or life of working class, impressionist artists, who were mostly from the bourgeois families, preferred painting the social life of middle class, scenes of leisure activities or landscapes. Obviously, ‘On the Terrace’ captured a scene of everyday life of the middle class people at that time. From the beautiful dressing of the sisters and the pose of the elder lady, which was sitting straight with her hands overlapping on her thigh elegantly, it is very likely that they were from the middle class. Also, the lively plants and some boats, which were partly blocked by the sparse trees, behind created a warm and leisure atmosphere. It is clear that it depicted the leisure time of middle-class ladies instead of something related to social or political events at that time.

Third, which is also the most important point, is the use of colour in ‘Two Sisters’. Previously, artists usually painted the objects with their expected colours instead of the real colour, including the tiny colour differences in every parts of the object that they should have observed. For example, since artists expected that shadows only appear as black or brown, only these two colours would be used when they needed to paint shadows. Later in 19th Century, due to the scientific development, there was a big progress of colour use when compared impressionists to the realist artists. People at that time found that shadows are not just black or brown in colour, which was accepted as true over the past decades, it is, in fact, appeared as various colours under the effect of light. In other words, most of the ‘black’ colour that people saw is actually not the pure black but mixture of contrast colours, like blue and orange, red and green, and purple and yellow in a group. With such cognition, the impressionists started avoid using black paint, when it was a must to present colour of black, they would present it by mixing complementary colours. Such kind of technique was also presented in ‘Two Sisters’. For example, the shadow of the elder sister’s sleeves. The colour of the shadow may easily be identified as black if spectators just view the artwork briefly. Nevertheless, Renoir, in fact, mixed up orange and blue paint to present the shadow. So did that of the boats behind. Orange was used to show their shadows on the river, which was mainly painted in blue. Apart from presenting shadow, contrast colours were also used to make paintings livelier. As mentioned, impressionist discovered that colours are affected by lights. They thus used the complementary colours to make the objects much closer to the reality. For instance, the green pot behind the younger girl in the painting. Its contrast colour, red, was also applied on it, and this made the pot become more real and three-dimensional. Similar technique was also applied when Renoir was painting the dark blue dress of the elder sister. Some strokes of orange, which is the complementary colour of blue, were painted so as to present the colours to the spectators more vivid.

Through its visible brushstrokes, use of colour and objected depicted, ‘On the Terrace’ can be considered as a typical impressionist painting, which means that colour take a very important role in its constitution. Colours were not only used to present the effect of light as mentioned above, it was also used to attract the attention of spectators.

There are mainly three points of focus in ‘Two Sisters’, which spectators would easily pay attention to at first sight. The first one is the scarlet hat of the elder lady. Her hat in sharp red colour was painted thickly, and it formed a big contrast with her dress, which also covered quite a large area with solid dark blue paint in the artwork. This caught the attention of viewers easily. The second focus is the hat of the younger girl. There were beautiful and colourful flowers, which was exquisitely depicted, on her hat. Same as that of the elder sister, the younger girl’s hat was painted thickly with solid colours, and this enables the flowers to stand out from the smoothly-painted object around, for example the face and hair of the younger sister. Such solid and multicolored area formed a very attractive point in this painting as well. The third point is the basket of wool balls on the bottom left corner of the artwork. Similar to the techniques used for painting the hat of the little girl, balls of wools with various bright colours were painted with thick and visible brushstroke. It did catch the eyes of spectators at once.

For the background of the painting, although various colours were also applied, they were not concentrated enough and were painted thinly and unclearly. For instance, the branches and leaves on the top right hand corner of the painting. Unlike the three focus points mentioned or even the branches just behind the younger sister, those branches were painted so softly that they were nearly invisible. As a result, there was no clear focus in the background.

In short, the three attractive points in ‘Two Sisters’ were created with the help of colour use. These three focuses, which are the hat of elder sister, flowers on the younger girl’s hat, and the basket of wool balls, located in the middle, right and bottom left of the painting respectively. They formed a triangle that enables the subject matters of the painting, which are the two sisters, to stand out from the relatively messy and disperse background and catch the attention of viewers.

The painting ‘Two Sisters’ is now collected in the Art Institute of Chicago, and it is one of the most popular paintings there. The main reason why it is beloved by so many people may be the positive feeling it transmitted to spectators. ‘Two Sisters’ presents the beauty of spring and youth to us. The two sisters who were in springtime of their life, and the lively and colourful background created a fresh and hopeful atmosphere. Also, with the bright colours used and impressionist techniques applied, it enables spectators to find themselves in such a wonderful and harmonious environment. At the same time, through their expression, the elder sister gives viewers a kind of peaceful and harmonious feeling while the younger girl shows her innocent and pure to us. By appreciating the painting, it seems that spectators could escape from the stress of everyday life, be purified and become peaceful.

The artworks is so harmonious except one place, which is the basket of wool balls. A question come into most spectators’ mind after they discovered the balls of wools in the bottom left corner: ‘Since the painting was capturing a scene on the terrace, which is in the open air, the balls of wools, which usually appears in indoor setting, seems to be quite inharmonious to the whole scene. What is the reason for Renoir to have such setting?’ It has been suggested that it might be a response of Renoir to a critic. The critic compared the painting of Renoir to knitting and described one of his artworks as ‘a weak sketch seemingly executed in wool of different colours’.[2] In response, Renoir did paint a basket of wool balls in his artwork. The suggestion might be true, but there may also be some other reasons since, in fact, no one really knows how Renoir was thinking at that time.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that 'On the Terrace' by Renoir is an impressionist painting with joyful and leisure theme, visible brushstrokes, and well use of various bright colours. And it gives spectators a feeling of peaceful, warm and harmony.

[1] The State Hermitage Museum of Russia, Auguste Renoir The Two Sisters(On the Terrace) From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved from:!ut/p/a1/
[2] The State Hermitage Museum of Russia, Auguste Renoir The Two Sisters(On the Terrace) From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved from:!ut/p/a1/


  1. White, Barbara Ehrlich. Renoir, his life, art, and letters. New York: Abrams, 1984
  2. Feist, Peter H. Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1841-1919: A Dream of Harmony. Koln: Taschen, 2000
  1. Debra N. Mancoff. Paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Retrieved from:
  2. Masaccio. Art Saturday: On the Terrace(Two Sisters) by Renoir. Retrieved from:
  3. Stephen F. Condren(2010). Two Sisters(On the Terrace) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Retrieved from:
  4. The Art Institute of Chicogo. Overview: Renoir’s Two Sisters(On the Terrace). Retrieved from:
  5. The Art Institute of Chicogo. Summary: Renoir’s Two Sisters(On the Terrace). Retrieved from:
  6. The State Hermitage Museum of Russia, Auguste Renoir The Two Sisters(On the Terrace) From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved from:!ut/p/a1/

Impressionsim: Pansy Ha talks on Edgar Degas's The Dancing Class, 1874.

Artist: Edgar Degas
Start Date: 1871
Completion Date: 1874
Style: Impressionism
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 85 x 75 cm

(DRAFT) Essay

The rise of Impressionism is one of the biggest art movements in art history. It gave people a whole new concept about art. Before the 18th century, people tended to paint about myths or royal life, and the more the paintings looked real or alive, the better it is. However, for the impressionism painting, the brushstrokes are much more visible and fleeting appearance of light usually occupied most part of the canvas.

Edgar Degas (1834-1917), as an avant-garde artist of the impressionist movement, his works was greatly influenced by the Japanese woodblock prints, which often has an unusual point of view while doing the artwork. Paul Valéry (1871-1945), a French philosopher once wrote in his article "Degas is one of the very few painters who gave the ground its true importance. He has some admirable floors". Degas did have a unique and extraordinary observation while doing his artwork. Many of his artworks (usually paintings and sculptures) have a particular viewpoint.

The Ballet Class (La Classe de Danse) is one of the most famous paintings among all the other works by Degas. Many may already knows that ballerinas no matter in rehearsal or at rest and bourgeoisie women were Degas favorite theme in his artworks, like Dance Class, Ballet Rehearsal, Dancers in Pink, L Absinthe, The Tub, The Singer with the Glove and so on.

In The Ballet Class, you can see a group of dancers nearly at the end of the class, listening feedbacks from their teacher, the famous French ballet master Jules Perrot, who happened to be Degas’ friend and always allowed Degas to his classes. Most of the ballerinas were seems exhausted after intensive training, they were scratching their back while stretching and twisting their body parts. Some of them were already taking off their accessories and fixing the clothes.

The painting is defined as an impressionism artwork for a few reasons.

Impasto. A drawing technique usually used in oil painting. Apart from being visible, the brushstrokes are also very thick so that the paint can be mix together. That’s why impasto is usually only seen in oil painting because of the thickness of the paint and the time needed for drying. (Impasto can sometimes apply on acrylic painting as well). Though we are not seeing the actual work of the Ballet Class, we can still see the visible, short brushstrokes all over the canvas.

The light. Impressionist painters rarely use black color in the painting. The dark paint that we see is the mix of the complementary colors, even for the shadow. Not to mention that most of the impressionist paintings are tended to be brighter and lighter. In the Ballet Class, you can actually observe how the artist depicted the light of the room. The right and bottom part of the painting is obviously the major part of the light, which we can guess is where the light (or even the sunshine from the outdoor) came from. It can also draw more attention from viewers when they first look at the painting. I believe the first thing that catch an eye from most of us in this ballet classroom are the two ballerinas with yellow and green ribbon and their teachers on the right side, which are the brightest objects in the room. In addition, it is hard not to notice the mirror with the broad arch at the upper central part of the painting, we can have a sneak part of part of the room and find the source of the light.

As mentioned before, Degas had an unusual viewpoint for his objects. Here he was viewing the studio diagonally in a slightly raised angle, like he was sitting on a chair at the other side of the room, observing the class carefully. The wall in the furthest corner is painted with dark green, and viewers can hardly see the faces of the ballerinas over there, so they looked less clear than those at the front. As the two ballerinas were standing nearest around the Degas, there is more detail on them. You can see the overlapping brushstrokes of the layers of their hair and cloths. Ballerinas’ clothes are usually bulky and is kind of see through, in the painting, we can actually feel the realness and gracefulness of their dresses with the thick but short brushstrokes. Not to mention the floor in the painting, which occupy a large proportion of the canvas (around a quarter of the whole canvas). Degas liked to give details to the floor like mentioned before, we can actually know more about the painting by looking into it. The texture of the studio’s floor looks a bit moistened, it is designed in this way to prevent slipping while people is dancing. Moreover, we can also see there are quite a lot of scratches on the floor, which were guessed are the mark of the ballet master’s baton when he beats times when training his students.

I always have an interest on impressionist artwork, not only of its special and unique techniques, but it feels like I can connect with the artists and share the feelings with him/her while I am appreciating their works. Although you cannot get a very clear image of the objects, you are still able to tell the story about it. The Ballet Class first interested me because of its rich paint. Degas used complementary colors in the drawing, like red and green, yellow and blue, white and dark. It looks colorful for me and catches my sight. Other than that I think the viewpoint of how the Degas looked at the studio is fascinating, many of the paintings that we usually see are horizontal and flat, like looking straight or directly to the objects, or looking from a high or low point of view, but in this painting, we share the same angle with Degas and know more about the objects. Apart from giving me warm and connected feeling, the Ballet Class somehow makes me feel comfortable to look at. I feel peace, but also the seriousness and strictness of having a ballet class with a real master. There are so many to look at with a few groups of ballerinas, the teacher, the room itself and other small objects in it, everything seems like telling a story to its audiences.

After appreciating the Ballet Class, I keep thinking if there is any special meaning for Degas to paint in this particular viewpoint, so as his other painting with special viewpoint. Other than that, how would the subjects, in this case, the ballerinas (and other women in his other paintings) felt when they saw his painting (if they have the chance)? Since impressionist was not popular and even hated by people at that time (18th century), they think impressionist were like stretch that hadn’t finished yet and hideous, they did not considered it as art, people tended to only know how to appreciate realist painting. So what would the people being depicted by the impressionist would think when they saw themselves looked blur and unreal in the “artwork” ? 


"Edgar Degas The Ballet Class." Musée D'Orsay.

"EDGAR DEGAS: THE GREAT IMPRESSIONISTS - History/Biography/Art (documentary)." YouTube.

DeVonyar, Jill, and Richard Kendall. Degas and the Art of Japan. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Reff, Theodore. Degas: the artist's mind. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976.

Rubin, James H. Impressionism. London: Phaidon, 1999.

3-mins presentation

I believe some of you may have seen this painting before, as it is quite a famous work of both Degas and impressionismAnd if you have the chance to see the other work of him, you’ll know that ballerinas at work were his favourite theme of his artwork. But what’s more interesting is, Degas had not so much interests to paint the ballerinas on stages with all the lighting, but to catch the moment of them backstage or during training. 
Like this one on the screen, showing a brunch of ballerinas having a class with Jules Perrot, an actual ballet master at that time in Paris. It was near the end of the class, the students were exhausted, they were scratching their back by stretching and twisting their body parts. Some of them were fixing their clothes and accessories while listening to their teacher. 
You can see that Degas caught the moment of the ballerinas’ most spontaneous, natural, ordinary gestures, when they were relaxed and the body slump after the exhausting practice of the class. One more thing you can notice in this painting is that the view point from Degas, which is slightly raised diagonally across the studio, to the vanishing perspective of the floor, which tells you he’s observing his subject closely. It looked like it’s just a snapshot, but it was actually carefully planed.
You can also see that like most of the other impressionism art works, the color of this painting is mostly light and bright. And the liveliness of the brushstroke gives you the feeling of existence from the painting. You can actually know all the spaces in the room by the open composition on the canvas and the sharp lighting and shading of the room, for example, the color of the furthest corner of the room was obviously deeper and the center of the room is much lighter. You can also see the lights on the people’s faces to tell that sunlight was coming in from the right side of the painting.
And of course, the overlapping brushstrokes shows the layers of the clothes and hair. The dresses of ballerinas are usually more bulky and see through feeling, in the painting, you can feel the realness and the gracefulness of the dresses with the thick brushstrokes.
And lastly, I have to mention the floor of the painting. As you can see, it occupied quite a large proportion of the canvas. I am not sure if you can see it, but the floor was a bit moistened to prevent slipping of the dancers. Degas put details of the floor, it’s not smooth but textured. And there’s some scratches on the floor which maybe the mark of the ballet master’s baton when he beats times on the floor.

Impressionism: Chilam Lau talks on Claude Monet's Sunrise, 1872

Title: Impression, Sunrise
Artist: Claude Monet
Year: 1872
Material: oil on canvas 
Dimension: 48 cm × 63 cm

                                                                         Draft Essay
Impression, Sunrise is a painting by Claude Monet, which hung at its first exhibition in 1874. At that time, most visitors were disgusted and even claimed that they were unable to recognize what was shown at all. Art critic Louis Leroy derisively used the term “Impressionistic,” from the title of this painting, to describe Monet’s works. It gave rise to the name of the Impressionist movement.
It is different from the the expression of emotion in Romanticism or the truthful and representation of the real world clearly in Realism, ordinary things of life is the main depicted object in Impressionism. In traditional painting, artists used to draw the objects based on the inherent color, therefore the dark color tone was the mainly color tendency. But for the Impressionism, the artists focus on capturing the visual impression and the pursuit of color change of light. They wanted to capture the transient effects and momentary of sunlight on the object by using visible brush strokes of mixed and pure unmixed color to portray the shading and outline to achieve an effect of intense color transient. As Monet said:Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one. 

Historical Background
For the historical background, the subject of this painting is the harbour of Le Havre in France. After the Franco-Prussian War from 1870-1871, France began its recovery from the war, art was to play an important role in the revitalization.
According to an article published in Oxford Art, it mentioned that “The Impressionists’ subjects of the 1870s gave no hint of the destruction of the war. In celebrating the French countryside and the new face of Paris, they, like other citizens, seemed to be interested in putting the national humiliation behind them.” Monet had a heavy engagement with the revitalization of french pride and spirit. At the time of Impression, Sunrise’s creation, Le Havre harbor was the site of many of the city’s largest and most important industries. The sunrise represents the post-war recovery of France and the hope.
The haziness in Impression, Sunrise is not only due to the morning mists of the channel, but also to the emissions produced by factories and steam ships. The construction site include cranes and heavy machinery is neatly located between the rising sun and its reflections, as if this orange sun is rising represent the promises of a new day and the renewed hope is enhancing.

The features of Impressionist painting include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes without modification, open and boundless composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light and its changing qualities. It focuses on the ordinary subject matter, the sensation and experience produced by the landscape and unusual visual angles are the crucial elements.

The subject of painting is the early morning sun depicted is rising over the foggy harbor. This painting show the key features of Impressionist art, include the unusual viewpoint and open composition, the visible brushstrokes, and distinct application of color. Those elements constituted the preoccupation with capturing the fleeting appearance of light and the surface appearance of reality in Impression, Sunrise.  

First, the viewpoint and composition of Impression, Sunrise is simple, borderless and unusual, which created the sensation and atmosphere. Monet choose a direct perception of scene –the sunrise view of Le Havre harbor to express his sensation and the experience of the world around him, which also is the best suits the play of light, shadow and coloring of nature in front of him. For the composition, Monet used the construction site, three boats and the ripple constitute a triangular composition. And the construction site as a structuring element in the back, but the diagonally arranged boats creates the spatial distance. Due to achieve the atmospheric effect and capture the constant change of light, the most important thing of composition is to create the sense of space and impression.

Second, the pure and intense colors affected by variations in lighting create a momentary effect of light, atmosphere or movement in this painting. As the mentioned by “Monet- Nature into art”, “color was rooted in one particular approach to the relationship between nature and color…form and space should instead be suggested by contrasts and variations of color”. Monet incorporates mostly cool, dull colors into the painting with blues and grays, but also includes the warm colors noticed in the sky and the red-orange sun.  This noticeably bright color draws attention to the main focus of the sun and the dark color of the nearest boat also capture the sight of spectators. Monet mixed large amounts of lead white to express the natural light. Therefore, the dark and shape color contrary to the cool tone of seawater.  In addition, the clouds and sea are colored by the rising sun. Colors are placed side by side in the sky and water portions of the painting, but seem mix together at the same time. The colors change from bright to light and the greys are tinged with blues which shows transient of the natural light in the misty sky. Then, the dense mist, the boats, the distant buildings, cranes, ships, boom only take shape colored by blue. It seems like those objects were mixed as whole with sky and sea. In addition, the light pink and orange sunlight into the whole picture creates a realistic picture with natural light, the rich atmospheric effects and a particular moment in time.

Finally, Monet used juxtaposed and visible brushstrokes making up a perspective space or hierarchies of forms. To quote Monet’s word:When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever, merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives you your own naive impression of the scene before you. The brushstrokes are equally important as integral to the whole scene. The smaller, more fragmented brushstrokes quickly capture the essence of the subject without focusing on any detail of the scene, such as the darker brushstrokes in water create motion, and ripples, while hints of orange, lead white and light pink appear as the reflection of the sunrise in the sea. And he used the blue brushstrokes to draw the silhouettes of the boats, buildings and construction site to create a looming feeling. That looks like messy brushstrokes suggests the protean and harmony nature.

The content is the most important elements of traditional art works, such as the classical focus on religious and historical themes; Romanticism often based on the literary stories and exotic; Realism trying to depict an event associated with the society. But the main pursuit of impressionism is the light change and the effect of intense color transient; the plot is not much interest.
In Impression, Sunrise, it just depicted a simple scene of sunrise. I care how to draw, the art forms, how the color and lines can create a visual impression and excitement, the sensation for the spectators and the artist instead of its contents and what it is painting. The focus shifted to a purely visual experience to me in this painting. The effect of intense color transient and the atmospheric effects created by Impression, Sunrise seems brings me to that moment to appreciate the rising sun on the harbor.  
Because the performance of impressionist painter is not an object itself, but the light changes in the objects and their impressions and feelings. Therefore even from the same viewpoint, different artists may have different expressing way toward the objects, it is interesting to appreciate unique angel for this painting.

Impression, Sunrise as the first magnum opus of Impressionism, Monet successfully captured predecessors ignored or considered impossible to render the impression with a painting. No longer limited to fixed and eternal landscape, but also including the objects’ momentary visual appearance by the transient effects.
As Robert Herbert has shown, this painting is a recreation of visual experience in terms of relationship of color and surface pattern, replacing the perspective structure and sharp tonal contrasts of traditional landscape. Impressionism is the starting point for the traditional art of turning to modern art, and Impression, Sunrise play an important role on it.

1.      There are numerous vertical elements can be found throughout this hazy landscape such as the Cranes and heavy machinery. Someone said it can balance the composition with horizontal brushstrokes in the sky and water portions; but someone said it just capture the natural moment. What do you think about this?

2.      Someone said Impression, Sunrise is lack of concern with composition, do you agree about that?

Tucker, Paul, Art History. Dec84, Vol. 7 Issue 4, p465-476. 16p.

2. Impression, Sunrise by Monet – Facts & History of the Painting

1.      The first Impressionist exhibition and Monet's "Impression, Sunrise": a tale of timing, commerce and patriotism

2.      <Monet-Nature into art> John House, Yale University Press
 New Haven And London

3.      Oxford Art Online, Impressionism (The first Impressionist exhibition and Monet's "Impression, Sunrise": a tale of timing, commerce and patriotism)

4.      Claude Monet: Impressionism's leading light, Stuckey, Charles F USA Today 124.2606 (Nov 1995): 36.

Impressionism: Jos Tam talks on Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881.

Artist : Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Date of Creation :1881 
Style : Impressionism
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 132.20 x 175.60 cm

Analysis of this artwork

Draft Essay
Luncheon of the Boating Party
This painting looks sharply bright, fresh and lively. It is different from the styles of academism and classicism. The styles of academism and classicism are serious, rigid or even dull whereas the styles of impressionism are vivid, active and relaxing.  
Although Renoir was poor, his paintings are mostly clear, beautiful with a warm tone. Especially his techniques of applying optical theories from physics and stippling, a new skill created by impressionists, seem to make the picture look hazy and bright. The picture lets audience feel fantastic and comfortable. The female portraits especially reflect his painting techniques.

The arrangement of Luncheon of the Boating Party shows a new Impressionist movement which the characters are no longer aristocrats or religious figures but are bourgeois or citizens. The bourgeois or citizens became more powerful and had more money after The Industrial Revolution and French Revolution. They were able to buy some expensive paintings so it was why Renoir depicted the daily life of residents.  
Renoir carefully and skillfully uses space, color, shape, and texture to paint the scene he saw. The bottles, table wares, food and figures are the shapes to the canvas and the people overlap that gives a sense of space and perspective.

Renoir also makes his composition neater and tighter by using design methods such as harmony, repetition and balance.
Audience can realize a series of movement through the facial expression and actions and of the characters.
Repetition is indicated through the stripes on the background representing some plants, the pattern of the gazebo cover, the yellow or black hats and posts in the railing which attract people’s eyes to stay around the canvas.

The artist thickly applies brushstrokes but there are also some delicate ones so the picture can be more sophisticated, and speckles of crossed red and white make the painting splendid and superb. For impressionists, they started revealing their brushstrokes deliberately, their paintings were not like the classicism oil paintings which not likely showing the brushstrokes. It is because showing their brushstrokes meant showing the artist’s personal characteristics and styles.  

With regard to balance, Renoir is an intelligent painter. He succeeds in distributing two figures on the left while twelve on the right. The tilting floorboards allows the characters on the upper-right corner to be easily noticeable and this enhanced the feeling of informality and intimacy.

There is no evidence proved that Renoir prepared any draft drawings for
 Luncheon of the Boating Party or that he did any initial sketches on the canvas. A common Impressionist approach was that they directly developed the composition and painted on the canvas.

It is believed that Renoir collected most of his ideas at the Maison Fournaise early on to organize this arrangement. He made a lot of changes in composition when painting this masterpiece. One of the most significant example is that the striped awning which aims at further enforcing the feeling of intimacy was added. Additionally, the trees emphasizes the cozy atmosphere so everyone just enjoys the party.

Coloring and Lighting

Impressionist painters were opposed to classical and academic painting, and also Romanticism which wilted and decayed gradually. They were inspired by Realism promoted by Corot, Courbet and Barbizon School. They also adopted other countries such as Japan, China painting techniques as well as applying modern science, especially optics that light produce all colors. So they were based on the spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) to mix colors. Owing to the changing of light, they thought they should capture momentary light shine for revealing the nature. Therefore the painters advocated to go outside and paint the nature in different period of the day. The painters like scientists would directly observe the subtle changes in color by their own eyes and paint according to their sense of the scene.

The colors used by Renoir are very wide and he contrasts the Prussian blue and green with Cadmium orange and vermillion. There are some typical example, when viewer looks at the blue clothes, the darker side of the blue clothes was made by the mixture and blue and orange. Renoir gave up black and tried to contrast colors to paint the dark side. This skill can make the picture be brighter and sharper, not like those gloom painting in classicism. This painting applying lots of colors reflects both the Impressionism and time period. Texture is performed by the figures as viewers could easily discover the brushstrokes of coloring. Renoir’s palette also has many golden tones and the skin of women shows red from the sun light. The hats and arms are also further clues of a sunny day. Skills of layering and blending to represent glowing skin with subtle tints of green and blue which make some part of skin be darker.

There is a great arrangement of light throughout Luncheon of the Boating Party. The prime light source is the balcony and the table, vests, cloth and of the two men in the leading-edge reflected the beaming sunlight. This painting captures the temporary effects of changing light and color. For handling shadowing, an Impressionist paintings deny black like traditional painting but use contrasts of color to shadow instead. Therefore, the picture can have brightness

Mood, Tone and Emotion

In conventional Impressionist style Renoir illustrated a scene from modern daily life and based it in the Restaurant Fournaise a place he knew well .Chatou was one of Renoir's favorite place to drae and Luncheon of the Boating Party is a portrait of his friends having a Sunday afternoon lunch on the balcony of the restaurant. His purpose was to take a usual scene and create a middle class party that portrayed the teenagers and beauty of his peers.

Discuss questions :
1.Does this painting reflect the lives of citizens?
2.What are the statuses or
 careers of the characters in this painting?

References :
Teacher's Guide for Luncheon of the Boating Party  by Susan Vreeland
Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Luncheon of the Boating Party by Creating with Wisdom