Pierre-Auguste Renoir's 1876 painting Dance At The Moulin De La Galette is one of the most celebrated examples of the Impressionist style. A vivid reproduction of the vitality and energy of Paris in the late-nineteenth century and painted from life at the Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre, the work reveals the revelries of the working-class on a Sunday afternoon. A moving and hypnotically mobile painting, Dance At The Moulin De La Galette is a fluid expression of form, brushstrokes, and shimmering life. It is an unreservedly positive painting, capturing a slice-of-life scene, and for many forming the zeitgeist of the era.
The Moulin de la Galette was frequented by many artists living in Paris, many of whom would live in the economic and vibrant quarter of Montmartre. In fact, many of the figures in the foreground of Dance At The Moulin De La Galette are the close friends, working rivals, and lovers of Renoir. The artwork is filled with people that continue until the far background. Their clothing is mostly dark tonalities of green, blue and black – a few women wear light colored dresses – and Renoir beautifully plays with these colors as the specks of light shine through the leaves. The background portrays tall trees and many ornamented light fixtures.
First shown at the independent Impressionist exhibition of 1877, the painting demonstrates the individual and idiosyncratic techniques perfected by Renoir. This masterful reproduction from life could more accurately be described as a series of portraits housed within a wider scene. Within the frame are Renoir's friends Frank Lamy, Norbert Goeneutte, and Georges Rivière who are situated around the central table. These young men, all supporters of the burgeoning Impressionist movement, are painted as the fixed points around which the scene revolves.
For others not in Renoir's circle, the painting was not such an achievement. Many contemporary critics decided that the canvas was simply a smudged impression of a working-class scene, not quite taken in by the buoyancy and vitality of this awe-inspiring depiction of movement. Photography could not yet capture snapshots of life so efficiently, yet in a truly individual flourish of style Renoir cuts off figures in the painting, suggesting the panoramic continuation of the scene outside the confines of the frame.
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