Le Bal Au Moulin De La Galette Descriptive Essay

  • Moulin de la Galette

    Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

A popular spot for artists and writers, the Moulin de la Galette was the subject of many paintings during the 19th and early 20th century. Like Renoir, artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh were keen to capture its ambience and joyfulness, though each canvas differs from the next. Below are examples of other works focused on the Moulin de la Galette.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin de la Galette, 1889:
Along with Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec is regarded as one of the greatest painters from the Post-Impressionist period. Like Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec was attracted to Montmartre for its somewhat retro feel and its popularity among fellow artists.

Toulouse-Lautrec painted the Moulin de la Galette thirteen years after Renoir, but adopted the same angle; people sitting at tables and socializing while couples enjoy the music and dancing in the background. In contrast to Renoir's sunny painting, Toulouse-Lautrec uses darker colors and focuses on being inside by using browns and grays. Toulouse-Lautrec's painting is also different from Renoir's because it does not focus on the faces of the people whereas Renoir painted almost every figure looking directly at the viewer. Thus, this gives the feeling of Renoir's work being more staged.

Vincent van Gogh, Le Moulin de la Galette, 1886:
Van Gogh completed this painting in 1886 whilst living with his brother in an apartment in Montmartre. Painting outdoors encouraged him to explore the effects of natural light and the result is a luminous palette that departs from his usual subjects of somber tones.

Pablo Picasso, Moulin de la Galette, 1900:
Picasso created Le Moulin de la Galette in 1900. In it he paid tribute to French artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Steinlen as well as his Catalan compatriot Ramon Casas.

Picasso's depiction of lamps burning in darkness and women wearing lipstick portrayed a very different ambience and created a more mysterious canvas than Renoir's. Picasso used more fashionable outfits too. However, like Renoir's creation some 14 years earlier, Picasso's work resembles a stage performance and his figures looked posed. Furthermore, the people in Picasso's canvas are also looking to the viewer. It seems that both Picasso and Renoir cared about the identities of those they painted.

Kees Van Dongen, Le Moulin de la Galette, 1904:
Van Dongen was a resident of the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre and this district became the subject of a number of his works. Picasso also lived there and with a studio next to Van Dongen, the two became firm friends. Van Dongen experimented with his art and his work was seen as moving towards a form of Expressionism. His scene at the Moulin de la Galette was, according to some, giving way to portraits.

NOTE: The general tonality of this oicture has been much modified by time. The disappearance of the lake colours which Renoir foolishly mixed with his whites has given the work a predominantly blue colour which it did not have originally.

Many critics prefer the socially charged paintings of Degas and Manet to Renoir's optimistic and prosperous modernism. The people who crowd Renoir's dance hall cavort on a Sunday, enjoying a "pay-as-you-drink-and-dance" entertainment. Most of them worked for a living - both men and women - and relished this moment of pleasure with a healthy abandon that sets them apart from the melancholy figures captured by Degas and others. Renoir's is indeed, a modernist vision of an urban Utopia of workers freed by their wages to dance and drink. Like several of Renoir's early Impressionist paintings Bal du Moulin de la Galette is a wonderful snapshot of real life, a moment of movement, noise and light, now gone for ever.

Riviere identified many of the figures in the painting as specific artists, writers, journalists, and even a civil servant; the women were models, milliners, and waitresses, and all of them gathered in Renoir's nearby garden studio on the Rue Cortot.

Riviere identified several of the figures in the painting, mostly friends of Renoir, and all of them gathered in his nearby garden studio on the Rue Cortot. They included artists, writers, journalists, models, milliners, and waitresses. Estelle, the sister of Renoir's favourite model Jeanne (who appears in The Swing), is the principal model for the painting, who sits at the front of the picture in the blue and pink striped dress. Next to her around the table, nursing glasses of grenadine are painters Pierre-Franc Lamy and Norbert Goeneutte, and Rivière himself.

Interestingly, none of Renoir's Impressionist colleagues are present, not even Gustave Caillebotte, the painting's first owner. Instead, the artists depicted were part of the academic or official world of painting, which was anathema to Impressionism. Thus, the painting represents not only a time in the history of France, after the horrors of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune had begun to fade, but also a generational time, before the younger men and women of Renoir's circle began to marry and enter the "proper" realm of bourgeois civility that was to be the subject of the artist's later oeuvre. His Impressionist friends Claude Monet (1840-1926), Alfred Sisley (1839-99), Berthe Morisot (1841-95), and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) — had already married and started families, and were no longer free to dance on Sundays.

From 1879 to 1894 Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette was owned by the French painter Gustave Caillebotte; on his death it was accepted by the French Republic in lieu of death duties. From 1896 to 1929 the painting was displayed in the Musee du Luxembourg in Paris; from 1929 to 1986 in the Louvre; until finally it was moved to the Musee d'Orsay.

Explanation of Other Modern French Paintings

• La Grenouillere (1869) by Claude Monet.
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

• The Ballet Class (1871-4) by Edgar Degas.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

• Absinthe (1876) by Edgar Degas.
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

• The Road-Menders, Rue de Berne (1878) by Edouard Manet.
Private Collection.

• A Bar at the Folies Bergere (1881-2) by Edouard Manet.
Courtauld Gallery, London.

• Water Lilies series (1897-1926) by Claude Monet.
Various art museums.

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