Blake Gopnik Reflects on Glassware in Renoir’s ‘Luncheon’

By Blake Gopnik in The Washington Post

So, for the umpteenth time, I dragged myself in front of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party.” I’ve always found this famous picture coy and stagy, almost saccharine. If impressionism billed itself as the “painting of modern life,” I’ve found the “Luncheon” more like the “faking of modern life.” There’s a pretense that we’re getting a snapshot view of a bunch of friends out for a good time on the Seine in 1881. But it doesn’t take long to figure out that each of these friends has been separately costumed and staged, then composited — Photoshopped, almost — into a single scene. Maybe that’s why the painting’s bonhomie between the rich and working classes feels more like conceit than reality.

Try as I may to walk resolutely by, however, one detail in the “Luncheon” always stops me cold: the few gorgeously painted glasses at the front edge of its table.

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