Renoir, Pierre-Auguste

Image Le Moulin de la Galette

1876 (170 Kb); Oil on canvas, 131 x 175 cm; Musée d'Orsay

Renoir delighted in `the people's Paris', of which the Moulin de la Galette near the top of Montmartre was a characteristic place of entertainment, and his picture of the Sunday afternoon dance in its acacia-shaded courtyard is one of his happiest compositions. In still-rural Montmartre, the Moulin, called `de la Galette' from the pancake which was its speciality, had a local clientèle, especially of working girls and their young men together with a sprinkling of artists who, as Renoir did, enjoyed the spectacle and also found unprofessional models. The dapple of light is an Impressionist feature but Renoir after his bout of plein-air landscape at Argenteuil seems especially to have welcomed the opportunity to make human beings, and especially women, the main components of picture. As Manet had done in La Musique aux Tuileries he introduced a number of portraits.

The girl in the striped dress in the middle foreground (as charming of any of Watteau's court ladies) was said to be Estelle, the sister of Renoir's model, Jeanne. Another of Renoir's models, Margot, is seen to the left dancing with the Cuban painter, Cardenas. At the foreground table at the right are the artist's friends, Frank Lamy, Norbert Goeneutte and Georges Rivière who in the short-lived publication L'Impressionniste extolled the Moulin de la Galette as a page of history, a precious monument of Parisian life depicted with rigorous exactness. Nobody before him had thought of capturing some aspect of daily life in a canvas of such large dimensions.

Renoir painted two other versions of the subject, a small sketch now in the Ordrupgard Museum, near Copenhagen and a painting smaller than the Louvre version in the John Hay Whitney collection. It is a matter of some doubt whether the latter or the Louvre version was painted on the spot. Rivière refers to a large canvas being transported to the scene though it would seem obvious that so complete a work as the picture in the Louvre would in any case have been finished in the studio.

© 16 Jul 2002, Nicolas Pioch - Top - Up - Info
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