One of the things that came with the modernization and industrialization of Paris was an increase in leisure activities, such as dancing, dining, café-concerts, ballet, opera, etc. Although they seem unrelated, industrialization led to set work hours and schedules, giving workers in Paris more time to participate in urban recreational activities. Thus, one of the subjects of Impressionist paintings is a French social gathering.
This is exactly what Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) chose to depict in his painting, Le Moulin de la Galette.
In this scene, Renoir depicted crowds of Parisians gathered at a popular dance hall, Le Moulin de la Galette. It is a very lively atmosphere, with people dancing and music playing. People are dressed in elegant, high-class attire.
Renoir also paints what the Impressionists are renowned for— light. He dabbles this energetic scene with sunlight here and there, as if the light was leaking through the leaves of the trees. This effect of floating light enhances the Impressionists’ message of capturing a precise and fleeting moment.
I really love this Renoir painting. I think that the details he chose to include are so clever and that this painting effectively conveys the ambiance of the scene. Because the figures are not posed and are in casual placement, and the space in the painting is fluid and continuous, Renoir makes me, the viewer, feel like I am a part of the scene. Just by looking at this painting, I can hear the music in the background, the chatter and the laughter in the crowd, the tinkling glasses, and I can feel the spots of sun and the spots of shade outside.
This painting also has an indescribable quality, it has that je ne sais quoi factor. It is a classic Impressionist painting.
* For the post on Renoir’s perspective on painting, click here.