The First Outing; c. 1875-76; National Gallery, London
There is a remarkable difference in technique between Renoir's two pictures of the occupants of a theatre-box, La Loge and La Première Sortie (as the latter is now entitled). In the intervening period Renoir worked with Monet at Argenteuil and, for the time being at least, had become thoroughly conditioned to Impressionist methods and outlook. The precision of drawing has gone to be replaced by a shimmering envelope of color that surrounds the figures and gives them an actuality in space that the other picture does not display. This of course is a difference of aim rather than aesthetic quality. The rich blacks have gone, depth of color being provided by ultramarine. But the Impressionist way of seeing concerned not only color but what it might be optically possible to see at one particular moment. In focussing on one object the eye is only vaguely aware of others behind and around and thus Renoir assumes that attention is fixed on the young girl on her first evening out and that the spectator has only a confused and sidelong impression of the rest of the theatre and other members of the audience. There is another advantage in the way this is presented. Something of the excitement of the occasion is conveyed by the broken color and the figures dimly visible. The calm of La Loge has no such suggestion.
Renoir's application of Impressionist ideas to figure compositions has other instances about the same time in La Balançoire (Louvre) and Le Moulin de la Galette. La Première Sortie first belonged to Count Armand Doria and was included in the Doria sale of 1899 under the less appropriate title of Café-Concert.