Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Luncheon of the Boating Party

by Susan Vreeland

I read this book because 3M selected it for the Something About Me Challenge. Having enjoyed most of Vreeland's novels and I absolutely loved Girl in Hyacinth Blue, I was looking forward to reading Luncheon.

Obviously the book is about the painter Renoir; with the focus on the time period dealing with his painting of the famous Luncheon of the Boating Party. Each person in the painting has a personal connection to Renoir and, by the end of the book, the reader feels acquainted with them and, in some cases, deeply involved with them.

3M from 1 Chapter More shared this wonderful personal experience on her blog.
Did you know there is a phenomena in which people cry uncontrollably in front of paintings or other art? I didn't know it either until it happened to me. I took my 7th grade class (back when I was a teacher) to an art museum in Nashville where they were having a special exhibit on impressionism. I was looking at this painting, and lo and behold, I started sobbing without any warning. It was so beautiful. It was like I was seeing it in 3-D. I couldn't believe the beauty of it. What was the painting, you ask? It was Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir. If you just see this in an art book, you may ask what the big deal is as there doesn't seem to be anything special about it. See it in person and you'll see a huge difference, believe me.
What a thrill to actually enjoy this masterpiece in person. Thanks for sharing that moment with us, 3M.

I don't know what exactly was happening in my life or with my mood, but I didn't get drawn into the story right away and I didn't feel compelled to keep reading. I am enjoying it more in retrospect than I did while reading. I really think the problem was mine, not the author's.

My favorite character was Alphonsine. I really liked her and found myself trying to counsel her not to fall in love with Renoir. She was so aware and thoughtful of all around her. I didn't care that much for some of the other character's pains, but I did for hers.

I am glad I read this book. I knew nothing of Renoir's life and could not even name one of his works before reading Luncheon. I got a good feeling for Paris and the countryside in 1880. And I found this site that shows all the paintings, Renoirs and others, that are mentioned in the book along with the passage. It's been fun looking at those.

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