Beneath the Surface of Luncheon of the Boating Party (Part 2)

In order to understand how Pierre-August Renoir created Luncheon of the Boating Party, a technical study was conducted in the conservation studio. By closely examining the surface and comparing it to x-radiographic and infrared images, we learn that Renoir made numerous changes both large and small over several months. While he deftly captured the moment of friends casually enjoying an afternoon at a restaurant on the Seine, the in-depth analyisis shows that he labored to capture the immediacy of the scene.

Explore fresh findings from a recent technical analysis of Luncheon of the Boating Party through this interactive feature

Addition of the Awning
Renoir made a critical modification to the composition by adding an awning across the top edge of the picture. Sweeping textured brushstrokes that do not correspond to the awning’s striped fabric are easily visible in the upper left, showing that the landscape and sky initially dominated the top of Luncheon of the Boating Party. Upon close inspection, we can see that the bridge was initially visible in its entirety, along with a dwelling on the far left. The colors used in the foliage—yellow, blue, orange, green, and white—are discernable beneath the thinly painted fabric. The infrared image (left) also indicates that he shifted the placement of the figure.

Infrared image of Luncheon of the Boating Party

The higher placement of the figure’s hat is seen as a dark shadow above its current position. Sketched lines across his forehead show that Renoir made several adjustments to the format of the hat before settling on its final location.

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