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Luncheon of the Boating Party (2007)

by Susan Vreeland

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9102618,145 (3.72)66
The story of the painting of Girl in hyacinth blue. The party of subjects drinking and flirting over several Sundays while he paints and his desire to do breakout work instead of portraits of society women in their parlors.
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» See also 66 mentions

English (25)  Italian (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
And thus began my true appreciation of the Impressionist movement. Wonderful book about Renoir. ( )
  Desiree_Reads | Aug 31, 2021 |
Trying to read it... it's for book discussion group... we shall see. ( )
  nwieme | Mar 19, 2020 |
Sensuous, full of color, food, wine, art, and la vie moderne. Renoir paints his masterpiece, with the background of most of his models. A slice of French life, teeming with voluptuous descriptions of his use of color and light in impressionist painting. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Luncheon of the Boating Party – Susan Vreeland
4 stars

“I regret I must interrupt your gastronomic delight in order to finish what we came for,” Auguste said.

Imagine a large group of animated people with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. They are all enjoying a gourmet lunch, good wine and the intersection of four or five different simultaneous conversations. Now ask them to freeze in place for several hours while the light lasts. This is the task of Auguste Renoir as he painted his Luncheon of the Boating Party. Vreeland’s book gives names, personality and personal histories to each of the faces in the Renoir’s masterpiece. Renoir captures la vie moderne in one moment in time. Vreeland captures this modern life with all of its social complexity. She also describes the seemingly insurmountable difficulties involved in the creation of Renoir’s painting. I feel as if I were privileged to be the proverbial fly on the wall anonymously watching all of the action. (Although, since it is Renoir, I’d have to be something prettier, a butterfly or a ladybug.)

I began this as an audio book, but I did not like the reader at all. It worked much better to read it. At first I had difficulty keeping track of the characters. I know the painters and writers of this time period by their last names. When Vreeland used only first names, I was confused. It helped a great deal to open the website for the book. It has some important background information, thumbnails of all the paintings mentioned in the text, and each character is identified with a close-up from the painting.

As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to get a flight to Washington D.C. and head straight to the Phillips Gallery to see the painting.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Audio book performed by Karen White
3***

In the summer of 1880 Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted what was to become one of his most instantly recognizable masterpieces, depicting a gathering of friends enjoying an afternoon on a café terrace along the Seine near Paris. His fourteen models included, among others, a famous painter, an art collector, a celebrated actress, the café owner’s daughter, a war hero, an Italian journalist, and a laundress. This was shortly after the Franco-Prussian war, and social constraints were loosening as Parisians embraced la vie moderne – pursuing pleasure and striving for a joyful life. It was also a time when the Impressionist group was being torn apart by diverging viewpoints and changing styles.

Vreeland has written several novels about the world of art - The Forest Lover (about Emily Carr), The Girl in Hyacinth Blue (about a Vermeer painting) and Clara and Mr Tiffany (about Tiffany’s decorative arts studio). She bases her works of fiction on solid research into the life and times of the artist/artwork, and uses her imagination to embellish the details of conversation, thoughts and feelings to make the scenes come alive. The word portraits she “paints” are as vivid as the works on art which inspire her. Using seven different characters to narrate this work gives us a broader perspective on the era and helps the reader understand the significance of the exciting changes Renoir’s painting conveyed. However, I found my mind wandering and I did not feel as connected to the people (or the art) as I have in other novels by Vreeland.

I wonder if this is because I listened to the audio rather than read the text. Karen White does a credible job on the audio – her pacing is good, her pronunciation of French apparently accurate (I don’t speak French, so how would I know, really). Still, the art of which Vreeland writes is a visual medium and I can’t help but wonder if I would have been more engaged if I had been using my eyes rather than listening.

Vreeland begins with a quote: To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them. - Pierre-Auguste Renoir
I did have the hardcover edition of the book handy, which has several color plate reproductions of not only Le dejeuner des canotiers but other Renoir paintings also referenced in the novel. I found myself constantly referring to the paintings, studying the composition and use of color, noticing how a daub of white here or a streak of lavender there would enhance and define the figures, the setting, and the artist’s vision. And I must thank Vreeland for calling my attention to these details and helping me understand what made Renoir’s work more than a just a pretty painting, but a masterpiece. As for the novel, in my opinion it is a pretty book – pleasing and enjoyable, but not a masterpiece.

( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
This complex novel will appeal to those who favor well-developed characters and atmospheric setting over nonstop action and nail-biting suspense.
added by Christa_Josh | editBooklist, Candace Smith (Sep 15, 2007)
 
Highly recommended.
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Barbara Hoffert (Apr 15, 2007)
 
Vreeland achieves a detailed and surprising group portrait, individualized and immediate.
added by Christa_Josh | editPublishers Weekly (Feb 19, 2007)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Vreelandprimary authorall editionscalculated
White, KarenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.

- Pierre-August Renoir
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Dedication
To him who is specially hers, Joseph Kip Gray, from she who is singularly his.

In memory of his brother, Michael Francis Gray.
First words
He rode the awkward steam-cycle along the ridge to catch glimpses of the domes and spires of Paris to the east, then turned west and careened headlong down the long steep hill toward the village of Bougival and the Seine.
Quotations
a saint is one with light shining through him;

art is love made visible;

painting about the goodness of life
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The story of the painting of Girl in hyacinth blue. The party of subjects drinking and flirting over several Sundays while he paints and his desire to do breakout work instead of portraits of society women in their parlors.

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