One of my favorite things about working at the Phillips is catching a group of young kids on a school tour. Just the other day, as I was taking notes in the galleries, a small stampede of children all donning the same bright yellow t-shirt came in and sat down in front of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party.
As they discussed this work, I was taken to places I had never been with it before. First they spent some time talking about the subjects of the work. The children noticed the people, the setting, and different elements such as what food was on the table. But then they went “inside” the painting. Each child demonstrated what sounds they thought they would hear if they were actually in the painting. One said a bee buzzing; another mentioned the dog and how it might be barking, while the woman holding it made “kissy” noises. Others suggested whooshing of the wind, rustling leaves, and the trickling of the water far in the distance. Then, when directed, they all together made these sounds, creating a soundtrack for the work.
Before this encounter, I looked at Luncheon of the Boating Party in a totally different way. I spent time noticing the artist’s talent in making the glass and liquid in the foreground shimmer. I noticed the composition, or the painterly style so common with the impressionists of this time. These kids (and Gallery Educator Donna Jonte, who led the exercise) helped me take a step back and stop obsessing over the pictorial. They helped me to appreciate this work for what it is: a captured moment in time.
Britta Galanis, Marketing & Communications Intern