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Dance at Le Moulin de La Galette

Pierre-Auguste Renoir • Painting, 1876, 131×175 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Genre scene
Style of art: Impressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1876
Size: 131×175 cm
Artwork in selections: 167 selections

Description of the artwork «Dance at Le Moulin de La Galette»

One day in early summer, Renoir sketched a Ball at the Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre. This plan haunted him: to arrange a large open-air not in the forest, among motionless trees or by the river, but in the very thick of a crowded holiday. For this purpose, the artist settled in Montmartre for the whole summer, quickly became a local celebrity, although the place turned out to be not too calm and reliable. Children here were often born without marriage, and while their mothers worked and grandmothers were engaged in the household, the kids were left to themselves, they went around unwashed and hungry. Renoir handed them cookies, milk and handkerchiefs every day and was sincerely worried about the abandoned babies: what if a fire starts or a cat gets into the cradle? He did not think about the morality of the neighbour girls, but out of habit he admired their beauty, shining eyes and youthful skin, hair in careless buns and sincere smiles.

It was a daring project for shy Renoir: to find a dozen models, sit with a huge canvas right next to the dancing couples and repeat this trick every day. But everything was surprisingly easy — artist friends agreed to pose for male characters, and Renoir invented his own method to attract local girls. He met mothers of young beauties, asked permission to paint their daughters and offered payment for this work. As a result, the Montmartre mothers came to him themselves and asked to paint their daughters — there were more than enough models.

Every day throughout the summer of 1876, one of his friends helped the artist to bring a huge canvas to the dance floor Moulin de la Galette, and the work began. Critics did not appreciate the fantastic effect of sunlight breaking through the leaves of acacia trees, which Renoir managed to convey on moving figures. At the third exhibition of the Impressionists, where the painting first appeared before the audience, they simply ignored it. Madame Renoir, the artist’s mother, once told him that 50 years must pass before people begin to understand his painting. In fact, it took 20 years until the painting moved from the personal collection of Gustave Caillebotte to the Musée du Luxembourg, and 53 until it was finally taken to the Louvre.
More than a century had passed after that Montmartre summer of Renoir, and a small copy small copy of his Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette painting was sold at Sotheby’s for $ 78 million. Madame Renoir was a wise woman who understood little in art and much in people.

Written by Anna Sidelnikova