Blind Date: Poetic Response to Renoir

DC-based writer Kate Horowitz penned this poem about about visit Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party after a visit to the museum in January 2017. It was originally published in Qu Literary Magazine.

Blind Date, Phillips Collection Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81)
by Kate Horowitz

August Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881.

She is frightened. Surely,
something has happened. She has just come from somewhere
where something
has happened. Hands at her face,
holding her spinning head.

She is flushed,
pinch-browed, squinting hard out onto the water. She is
not alone: there are men

mere inches from her mouth, simultaneously shushing
and asking what has happened, shush, what has happened,

an arm around her waist, shhh, they don’t want answers,

they want an arm
around her waist, their beards by her hot mouth, and
yes, she is stammering,
but shhh, she
will not be for long,
this will blow over,
nothing has happened,
shhh, shhh, Jeanne, shhh

One hundred thirty-five years later it
has not blown over,
the men are shushing still,
Jeanne, she is still frightened, something has happened, but
the museum guide will say the men “seem to be flirting”;

the museum guide
will not say
what Jeanne is doing,
or where she was before, or even that

something has happened

and when I, pinch-browed,
standing before the painting, spot her for the first time, I say
something has happened,
she is upset, and the man
mere inches from my mouth
turns from my pointing
and says,
Look at that adorable dog

An Intimate Exchange

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Renoir and Friends: Luncheon of the Boating Party, on view October 7, 2017-January 7, 2018.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Boating Couple, 1880–81

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Boating Couple (Les Canotiers), 1880–81. Pastel on paper, 17 3/4 × 23 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Given in memory of Governor Alvan T. Fuller by the Fuller Foundation

The young woman in this exceptional pastel drawing wears a ring on her third finger and holds a bouquet of violets. She gazes into her partner’s eyes and is clearly the object of his affection. This intimate pair is thought to represent Renoir with Aline Charigot, his future wife. During the summer of 1880 the couple spent an increasing amount of time together. This artwork is one of quite a few from this moment in Renoir’s career in which he may reference himself as the male protagonist engaged in an intimate exchange with a young woman generally assumed to be Charigot. Her straw hat, with a silk flower embellishing the ribbon, looks similar to the one worn by Charigot in Luncheon of the Boating Party, whereas he appears to be wearing the jacket donned by writer and critic Adrien Maggiolo in the painting.

Volunteer Spotlight: Mallory Verez

In this series, Education Specialist Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. Phillips volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concerts, assisting patrons in the library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several them.

Mallory Verez, Art Information Volunteer

Mallory Verez

What year did you start volunteering at The Phillips Collection?

I started volunteering in June 2017.


What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?

I want each visitor to be able to leave with something, be that a newfound appreciation or knowledge. Sharing the history of The Phillips Collection and leading visitors to pieces they might like is so exciting. My favorite part is when visitors share their perspectives and understanding with me in return.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at The Phillips Collection?

I’m a full time undergraduate student, studying psychology, and an intern at Joy of Motion Dance Center, a non-profit organization devoted to making dance education and performance available to everyone. Being a part of that organization has been nothing short of incredible.

What is your favorite room or painting here?

My favorite room is easily the Rothko room; I feel like I could spend hours in there. My favorite pieces right now are any by Willem De Kooning.

If you had to choose one word to describe the Phillips, what would it be?


Share a fun fact about you!

I recently got a shepherd-husky mix puppy, an absolute treasure, whom I named Mojo. She enjoys invading personal space and looking at herself in the mirror.


Is there anything else you would like to share?

I am eternally grateful to The Phillips Collection for letting me spend time engaging with visitors and the art, and for opening my eyes to the possibility of a future in museum work.