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Luncheon of the Boating Party (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Susan Vreeland (Author)

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8322215,964 (3.74)63
Member:evareads
Title:Luncheon of the Boating Party
Authors:Susan Vreeland (Author)
Info:Penguin Books (2008), Edition: Reprint, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:historical

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Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland (2007)

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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 |
One of my all time favorite books. It combines several of my passions, art, reading and France. It tells the story of how the painting "Luncheon of the Boating Party" came about. It's partly fiction, but it certainly could have happened that way. The characters are real. Make sure you have a copy of the painting handy as you read the book. The book captures the specifics and the beautiful atmosphere of the painting just as well as the artist did. ( )
1 vote bcrowl399 | Jul 10, 2013 |
Although I usually hate fictionalized biography, I enjoyed this imagined account of one of Renoir's best-known works, and, unexpectedly, enjoy the painting itself more now that I know something about its setting and models. It is a warm and sunny painting, and Vreeland's book captures its spirit. ( )
1 vote sallysvenson | Mar 17, 2012 |
Reading this novel about Renoir's creation of his famous painting was like watching paint dry. Oof! Vreeland gives us tons of information about the artist, his lifestyle and the models that he used for the painting; but the novel moves at a snail's pace. If I hadn't had to read it for my reading group I never would have finished. Yes, I learned things about Renoir and his Impressionist group but oh! this book could have used some editing. ( )
1 vote ken1952 | Jun 16, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (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.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143113526, Paperback)

A vivid exploration of one of the most beloved Renoir paintings in the world, ?done with a flourish worthy of Renoir himself? (USA Today)

With her richly textured novels, Susan Vreeland has offered pioneering portraits of artists? lives. Now, as she did in Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Vreeland once again focuses on a single painting?Auguste Renoir?s instantly recognizable masterpiece, which depicts a gathering of Renoir?s real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine. Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models, the novel illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era. With a gorgeous palette of vibrant, captivating characters, Vreeland paints their lives, loves, losses, and triumphs so vividly that ?the painting literally comes alive? (The Boston Globe).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Renoir is inspired to paint "Luncheon of the boating party" when his other work is criticized by Emile Zola, and while doing so is drawn into lives of the thirteen people featured in it as they enjoy a Parisian summer during the late 1800s.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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