Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Forever Young --- Day 2/67

Walk: Russian Hill (book signing party for Gerald Shea, Song Without Words)
Distance: 2 miles

Here are two images of one of my favorite paintings.  The first is more true to the colors I remember and to Renoir's words: I arrange my subject as I want it, then go ahead and paint it, like a child. I want a red to be sonorous, to sound like a bell; if it doesn't turn out that way, I add more reds and other colors until I get it. And the second is larger so you can see the joyful images in more detail. 

August Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-81, Oil/Canvas

The painting was bought by the collector, Duncan Phillips, in 1923 and is what he knew it would be, the best known and most popular of his extensive art collection. It needs no explanation really.  Nevertheless I include a small excerpt from the Phillips website: The painting captures an idyllic atmosphere as Renoir's friends share food, wine, and conversation on a balcony overlooking the Seine at the Maison Fournaise restaurant in Chatou. Parisians flocked to the Maison Fournaise to rent rowing skiffs, eat a good meal, or stay the night....The painting also reflects the changing character of French society in the mid- to late 19th century. The restaurant welcomed customers of many classes, including businessmen, society women, artists, actresses, writers, critics, seamstresses, and shop girls. This diverse group embodied a new, modern Parisian society.

Luncheon of the Boating Party hangs in an interior room in the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, and I used to visit it often on my walks home from Capital Hill where I worked for a Congressman.  The Phillips Collection is in a Georgian Revival house with a series of smallish rooms, and when you are in one, you cannot see what is ahead.  Even though I came to know when I was about to encounter Luncheon.., there was always a shock of delight when I came to it face to face.  The painting is ever-lastingly new and fresh; the camaraderie and warmth of friendship eternally alive and sparking joy in the viewer.

This reminds me of a similar experience out here in my daily life: coming through the Waldo Tunnel and seeing San Francisco before me.  It never, ever fails to be stunning and stirring in its beauty.  I think I wrote once in CIWT that I was standing next to a contractor who was pointing up to the tunnel and telling visitors they should drive through it and catch the view.  He said that in the course of his work he might make 2-3 or more trips from Marin each day, and every time through the tunnel he was blown away by the sight of the city.

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