Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, France, the child of a working class family. As a boy, he worked in a porcelain factory where his drawing talents led to him being chosen to paint designs on fine china. He also painted hangings for overseas missionaries and decorations on fans before he enrolled in art school. During those early years, he often visited the Louvre to study the French master painters. In 1862 he began studying art under Charles Gleyre in Paris. There he met Alfred Sisley, Frédéric Bazille, and Claude Monet. At times during the 1860s, he did not have enough money to buy paint. Although Renoir first started exhibiting paintings at the Paris Salon in 1864, recognition did not come for another ten years, due, in part, to the turmoil of the Franco-Prussian War. Renoir experienced his initial acclaim when six of his paintings hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. In the same year two of his works were shown with Durand-Ruel in London. Around 1892, Renoir developed rheumatoid arthritis. In 1907, he moved to the warmer climate of “Les Collettes,” a farm at Cagnes-sur-Mer, close to the Mediterranean coast. Renoir painted during the last twenty years of his life, even when arthritis severely limited his movement, and he was wheelchair-bound. He developed progressive deformities in his hands and ankylosis of his right shoulder, requiring him to adapt his painting technique. In the advanced stages of his arthritis, he painted by having a brush strapped to his paralyzed fingers. In 1919, Renoir visited the Louvre to see his paintings hanging with the old masters. He died in the village of Cagnes-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, on December 3.
Luncheon of the Boating Party
The painting, combining figures, still-life, and landscape in one work, depicts a group of Renoir’s friends relaxing on a balcony at the Maison Fournaise along the Seine river in Chatou, France. The painter and art patron, Gustave Caillebotte, is seated in the lower right. Renoir’s future wife, Aline Charigot, is in the foreground playing with a small dog. There is fruit, wine and a whole other variety of dishes laid out on the table.
The painting is clearly split diagonally, the two halves being the upper left and the lower right part. The composition, one densely packed with figures, the other all but empty, save for the two figures of the proprietor’s daughter Louise-Alphonsine Fournaise and her brother, Alphonse Fournaise Jr., which are made prominent by this contrast. In this painting Renoir has captured a great deal of light. The main focus of light is coming from the large opening in the balcony on the left-hand side, where we can see the standing man in a straw hat. Additionally, we are also presented with a beautiful view of the Seine river right behind him. The singlets of both men in the foreground and the table-cloth all work together to reflect this light and send it through the whole composition, thus giving the painting a rather warm feeling of joy and comfort.
Dishes and recipes
• assoles à la normande
• galette de plomb
• Eggs sur le plat Meyerbeer (Oeufs sur le plat Meyerbeer)
• pêche Melba
• Crêpes Suzette
3 cups water
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups raspberries
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large tub vanilla ice
Put the water, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla pod into a wide saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring the pan to the boil and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to a fast simmer.
Cut the peaches in half, and if the stones come out easily then remove them, if not then you can get them out later. Poach the peach halves in the sugar syrup for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Test the cut side with the sharp point of a knife to see if they are soft, and then remove them to a plate with a slotted spoon.
When all the peaches are poached, peel off their skins and let them cool (then you can remove any remaining stones). If you are making them a day in advance then let the poaching syrup cool and then pour into a dish with the peaches. Otherwise just bag up the syrup and freeze it for the next time you poach peaches.
To make the raspberry sauce, liquidize the raspberries, confectioners’ sugar, and lemon juice in a blender or a food processor. Sieve to remove the pits and pour the puree into a jug.
To assemble the Peach Melba, allow 2 peach halves per person and sit them on each plate alongside a scoop or 2 of ice cream. Spoon the raspberry sauce over each.
1 x classic pancake recipe (see ‘Goes well with’)
3 tbsp caster sugar
250ml freshly squeezed orange juice (2-3 oranges)
zest 1 orange
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau
50g unsalted butter
1. Prepare pancakes following the classic recipe – see ‘Goes well with’. Fold the pancakes into quarters.
2. Tip the caster sugar into a non-stick frying pan and set the pan over a low-medium heat. Allow the sugar to melt slowly without stirring and continue to cook until it becomes a deep amber-coloured caramel.
3. Immediately slide the pan off the heat and add the orange juice – be careful as it may splatter and spit as it hits the hot caramel. Add the orange zest, lemon juice, the Grand Marnier and return the pan to a low heat to re-melt the caramel into the liquid.