Pierre Auguste Renoir's Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (The Rowers' Lunch), 1875-76
Discussion questions and activities for home and classroom about Renoir's idyllic scene of friends and nature.
Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Education Department: Teacher Programs. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995, p. 108-109.
The Rowers’ Lunch, 1875-76
Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 25 1/4 in. (55.1 x 65.9 cm)
Renoir was recognized as a figure painter in a movement principally known for its landscapes. Look carefully at this painting and describe what you see. Who are the three people and what are they doing? What do their gestures and facial expressions reveal about their moods and relationship to one other?
Explain how Renoir has expressed the perfect harmony of nature and people in this composition. What makes the "action" difficult to separate from the atmosphere? How does the size of the painting and the depiction of the space add to the intimate feeling of the work?
Renoir was concerned with the motion of light. Examine and describe how he has captured with paint the flickers of light and shadow as they fall on and define the objects in this scene.
1. Renoir’s feathery brushstrokes and use of color describe this relaxed, intimate moment among friends and, at the same time, suggest changing light. Find examples (reproductions or photocopies) of other paintings or photographs which are successful in capturing atmosphere or mood. What visual devices have artists used to capture bitter cold or sweltering heat; warm camaraderie or intense anger?
Alternative: Find passages in books where writers vividly describe a particular mood or atmosphere. Explain what makes these compelling.
2. Renoir painted contemporary, middle-class people enjoying pleasur-able, informal moments of leisure. Compare this painting to Degas’s Uncle and Niece and Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge, which depict stressful times or alternate life-styles. Discuss how each painting reflects the artist’s unique view (and interpretation) of nineteenth-century Paris and its inhabitants. Create your own title for each of these paintings based on the people and/or scene portrayed.
3. This painting depicts the Restaurant Fournaise in Chatou, a popular destination for holiday pleasures. What activities could he pursue in riverside resorts like this? In groups of four to five students each, write a dialogue for the people portrayed in this painting, or a similar group of friends. The conversation could be based on a description of a sporting event, meal, or walk they just had. These dialogues should be fact-filled (based on research) and interesting (creatively stated).
4. Parisians could take the train from the Gare Saint-Lazare to Chatou. This easy and available transportation forever altered the appearance of the small villages along the riverbanks and the lives of their original inhabitants. Find parallels in our society today. Focus on the transformation of an area after it has been "discovered" by a group of people for leisure, entertainment, or housing. It can be somewhere in your own neighborhood; anywhere in the United States; or a suburb of Paris during Renoir’s day. Trace the changes, for better or worse, in the form of short newspaper articles or letters.