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Le Moulin de la Galette

Artist: Pierre Auguste Renoir
Created: 1876
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France



Le Moulin de la Galette is doubtless Renoir’s most important work of the mid 1870’s and was shown at the Impressionist exhibition in 1877.

The Moulin de la Galette is located near the top of the Monmarte in Paris.  It was an open air dance hall and café where young people of this city came for amusement on Sunday afternoons.  This was the scene that Renoir depicted in his painting entitled with the same name as the town. His aim was to convey the carefree and joyful atmosphere of this popular Parisian dance hall on the Butte Monmarte onto his canvas.

Renoir depicts in his painting, his friends and their dance partners, seamstresses and flower girls who came to waltz at the Moulin in the evenings.  The girl in the striped dress in the middle foreground was said to be Estelle, the sister of Renoir’s model Jeanne.  Another of Renoir’s models, Margot is seen to the left, dancing with the Cuban painter, Cardenas.  At the table on the right (in the foreground) are the artist’s friends, Frank, Lamy, Norbert Goeneutte and George Rivière.

Much of the Moulin de la Galette was painted on the spot using criss-crossing brushstrokes, laid on in thin, successive layers and melting into one another. The study of the moving crowd, bathed in natural and artificial light is handled using vibrant and bright colored brushstrokes. One focus in this painting seems to be the interplay of light and shade, notice, for example, the effect of this on the back of the young man sitting in the foreground, on the right. In the background you see figures that aren’t clearly distinct because they are amongst a mass of lights and shadows. Renoir just provides us with the impression that there are many couple’s dancing.

This masterpiece of early impressionism, Le Moulin de la Galette, with its innovative style, is a sign of Renoir’s artistic ambition.



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