Dance at Bougival, painted in 1883 by Pierre Auguste Renoir, is by no means a by-numbers reproduction. A masterpiece of the Impressionist style it is also an intimate and candid work. The model who so elegantly turns to the music, which itself can almost be heard in the swaying blur of the Cafe scene, was a frequent sitter for Renoir. Her name was Suzanne Valadon – who can also be found in his work The Large Bathers (1884–87) – made the leap from artist's muse to the artist and became of the leading painters of the late XIX century France.
The location was also a frequent element of the Impressionist repertoire. Bougival, a suburban retreat situated along the Seine outside Paris, was dotted with open-air cafes wherein life, movement, and color prevailed. A popular spot for Parisians, the Impressionist artists enjoyed the intermingling of city life and rural energy. Indeed, it was Renoir and Monet – after choosing to paint side-by-side on the Bains de la Grenouillère in Bougival – who gave life to the Impressionist style of painting. After the success of this initial pairing, the two added Alfred Sisley to their team and together painted the sights of the Seine, studying the movement of life reflected in the shimmering water of the river.
Dance at Bougival is an intense reproduction of life, capturing the joys of an excursion from the city, and the precariousness of life and youth. The intense use of color and the dense, sensuous brushwork heightens the resemblance of movement, as the dancing couple dominates the frame and the composition. The red bonnet of the dancing woman is the focal point for both the viewer and her partner, pronouncing the tonal dimension of the work. Reminiscent of Vermeer's Girl With a Red Hat (1665-1666), Dance at Bougival is imbibed with the mystery of a passing moment just out of reach.
Along with the natural movement given to the dancing couple, the use of color gives life to the painting. The green and blue tonalities used on the far background to portray the sky and vegetation create a stunning complementary effect with Valadon’s red hat, the pink carefully used on her skin tone and dress, and the gentleman’s orange beard. The man’s suit is a dark violet-blue, which also complements the yellow pigments in his hat, shoes, skin tone, as well as the ground.
Important Notes About Your Painting:
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