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The light merriment of Renoir's Le Moulin de la Galette, where a Sunday crowd enjoys a favored dance hall is typical of his style of celebrating lively charm. A place in Paris where all classes gathered, exemplified by the top hat of the upper class and the straw hat of the petite bourgeosis. It illustrates the world of the past, when artists, workers and young girls got together to dance the whole afternoon in the garden of the Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre. For political reasons the upper, middle and lower classes could not cross environments except in places like the Galette. Although idealized the scene is reflective of contemporary social changes and public places becoming important.

While some gather around the tables and chatter, other dance energetically in the dissolving background of activity. Always wanting to retain the traditions of the masters Renoir's look back at Rococo stresses leisure. Its acacia-shaded courtyard is one of his happiest compositions, the whole scene is dappled by sunlight and shades, skillfully blurred into the figures themselves to create the effect of fleeting and floating light that the Impressionists cultivated. Renoir seems particularly to have welcomed the opportunity to make human beings, and especially women, the main components of picture. Like a sprinkling of his peers he found unprofessional models.....

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.' ....and Renoir tells about his work -- I do my best, I draw to amuse people, not to bore them, to draw their attention to what is worth looking at and what they don't necessarely see for themselves.

The casual informal posing of the figures, and the hint of spatial continuity spreads in all directions contained only by the frame, the wrok introduces the viewer into the actual scene. No longer is it as with Tradition a staged perfomance, but rather the observer is now a part of the action. Renior's subjects are unaware of the presence of the viewer; they do not pose, but simply go on about their business at hand. Just as Classical art endeavored to express universal and timeless qualities Impressionism sought to depict the moment, a chance passing--the seemingness of reality.

Renoir painted two nearly identical versions of Le Moulin de la Galette. The first was bought by Caillebotte and was left to the State upon his death. The second was acquired by the American collector John Hay Whitney and put up for sale 1990 at an auction in New York. It fetched 406 million French francs making Renoir the most expensive French painter in the world.


Arts, Lettres & Techniques :

Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Justus, Kevin. "Art and Culture II." Tucson , Arizona.
1992. (Lecture presented at Pima Community College.)

De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.


This and other works by Renoir may be seen at

Olga's Gallery:

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