Contest 564: Maison Fournaise, Chatou, France

Maison Fournaise is a restaurant and museum on the Île des Impressionnistes. It is the backdrop in many of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s paintings, including what is, arguably, his most famous.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Luncheon of the Boating Party - Google Art Project.jpg
By Pierre-Auguste Renoir Google Cultural Institute

Once upon a time, your humble contest admin here had the experience of standing in the presence of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”.

I was 21 at the time, home on Christmas break from college, and woefully uneducated in appreciation of art, but the Philips Collection was on tour and this amazing painting somehow ended up on exhibit for a couple of weeks at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. My best friend’s big brother, who we all looked up to, convinced a small group of us to go to the show.

Most of the paintings there were interesting, but not anything to hold a young man’s attention. Then I turned the corner and saw this massive canvas. I was completely transfixed, transported into the scene. You could almost smell the smoke from the cigarette in Gustave Caillebotte’s (sitting backwards in his chair) hand. If you’ve never seen the painting in person, you wouldn’t know that his cigarette has a bright tiny red dot of paint for the “cherry”, a fact I’ve never been able to see in any photographs or prints of the painting. In person, this minuscule bit of red draws your eye directly to it. It becomes the launch point from which you experience the rest of the painting, adding a 4th dimension of time into the viewing. I’ve been a huge fan of Renoir and the other impressionists, as well as art in general, ever since this experience.

If you ever find yourself in Washington DC, I HIGHLY recommend a trip to the Phillips Collection to see this for yourself. I hope your experience is as life-affirming as it was for me all those years ago.

Those who located this site before the hint were:

  • hhgygy
  • Phil Ower
  • Abcdefg Hijkl
  • Garfield
  • Martin de Bock

And after the hint:

  • Ashwini Agrawal
  • Rob de Wolff
  • Walter_V_R
  • Jesus Rodriguez
  • Hilde Lambeir
  • BC11
  • Wista