Photos from Elaine and Dick Van Blerkom's scrapbook to commemorate Dick's 1980s birthday themed after the 1880s Luncheon of the Boating Party.
Arguably one of the finest paintings at The Phillips Collection, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party portrays a lavish gathering of Renoir’s contemporaries and colleagues for a pleasant midday meal. The work is inspiring in its subject matter, its scale, and its technique, so much so that it moved Elaine and Dick Van Blerkom to recreate their own luncheon on the C&O Canal in full period costume (hear about their first encounter with the painting on a first date to the Phillips in 1963 in their “Love Stories” video below).
The Smithsonian’s Food & Think blog has these DIY tips for an idyllic Renoir-inspired luncheon.
By all means, come and study Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party at the Phillips as a guide for your next gathering, but please note, parasols will be checked at the door.
In case you haven’t met Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, here’s a chance to get to know “the biggest small star of the comedy world on the web,” according to Brian Williams’s recent report. Marcel’s first video hit YouTube in late 2010 and since then the googly-eyed creature has had over 14 million views! This fall, a new book and a second video were released. Have a look about one minute into the second video, below, when Marcel is talking about his bed made of bread. In the background you can see a postcard of Luncheon of the Boating Party. It’s nice to know that Marcel (or his parents) have such good taste!
To celebrate our 90th anniversary The Phillips Collection held an all-day birthday party attended by 4,400 people. In honor of the event, my colleagues in the education department and I were asked to give half hour tours every hour on the special 90th anniversary installation of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. The museum’s masterpiece is on display in its original location in a gallery in the Phillips family home, which was, when Luncheon of the Boating Party debuted there on New Year’s Day 1924, known as the Main Gallery.
Post author Paul Ruther takes visitors through a time machine to 1924 in a gallery tour. Photo: Brooke Rosenblatt
I thought it would be fun to reacquaint visitors with the Boating Party by describing what it would be like to view it in its original location as a form of time travel. I described the room as it looked then, with couches, rugs, ashtrays—in case anyone wanted to smoke—and a skylight. I let them know that in 1924 Calvin Coolidge was president, gas cost an average of 21 cents per gallon, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was first performed that year, and one of the year’s most popular movies was The Thief of Baghdad starring Douglas Fairbanks.
Perhaps the most interesting bit of trivia about the historic year of 1924, however, was that Duncan Phillips’s beloved Washington Senators baseball team won the World Series—remember his wife Marjorie’s most famous painting Night Baseball(1951) featured the hometown team. The Senators took game seven from the New York Giants winning four games to three, when future hall-of-famer Walter Johnson came in to pitch relief in a 12 inning game. I don’t know if Duncan Phillips ever made the connection, but the year Luncheon of the Boating Party first went on view was the first year in baseball history that a major league team from Washington ever won the World Series. The Senators have become the Washington Nationals, but we’re still waiting for the second World Series victory.
Was it a coincidence that the Senators won the World Series that year? I hardly think so.
Paul Ruther, Manager of Teacher Programs