Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette Pierre-Auguste Renoir Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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One of Auguste Renoir’s most important works, Bal du moulin de la Galette (Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette) was first exhibited at an Impressionist show in 1877.

The painting shows some of the painter's own friends in a joyous scene at the popular dance garden of Butte Montmartre. The crowd is lit with flickering natural and artificial light, creating a sense of movement. Brightly coloured brushstrokes also contribute to a vibrant atmosphere. The illustration and celebration of Parisian life was a common theme used by Renoir. It was common for working class residents of Paris to dress up and entertain themselves during the late nineteenth century. This might have involved drinking, eating ice cream or dancing into the evening hours. ‘Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette’ reflects a typical Sunday afternoon in the Montmartre district of Paris. The painting is a moment in time capturing real life, a common snapshot of everyday activities found in other works by Renoir.

Similar works by Renoir include Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-81). The painting also has the same rich form and fluid brush strokes. Renoir also used flickering light to simulate movement. Like Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, Renoir again used a group of friends for the painting including his future wife. This time, the group is enjoying fruit and wine on a balcony overlooking the River Seine at the Maison Fournaise restaurant in Chatou. Dance at Bougival (1883) allow shows an outdoor scene and again uses two of Renoir’s friends as its subjects. The painting captures a snapshot of the couple dancing while others in the background enjoy conversations and drinks. This time, the painting uses a more classical style while combining the bright colour palette used by Impressionists.

Renoir began conceptualising Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette in May 1876 and was painted at the garden. He set up a studio at a nearby abandoned cottage, which now forms part of the Musée de Montmartre. The cottage's garden served as inspiration for other works by Renoir, include La balançoire (The Swing). The painting's innovative style and imposing format were common Impressionist elements employed by Renoit in his pieces. The brush stroke is fluid, while the illumination almost flickers to create movement and activity for the figures. The blurry impression of Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette was originally criticised by critics. The painting is now housed at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and remains one of the most recognised masterpieces of the Impressionism art movement. The original oil on canvas measures 131 by 175 centimetres, or 52 by 69 inches.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a leading painter in the Impressionist style. The French painter was known for celebrating beauty and female sensuality in his work, following along the tradition of Peter Paul Rubens and Antoine Watteau. Renoir was born in Limoges in 1841 and began drawing at a young age, although it was his singing talents that were first noticed by his teachers. During his apprenticeship at a porcelain factory he began taking lessons before enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1862. Inspired by modern painters Camille Pissarro and Edouard Manet, Renoir joined with these and other painters to organise the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. In doing so, he helped launch the new art movement. Other painters to show their work at the exhibition were Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. Although much of the response to the artists was critical, Renoir’s paintings were relatively well received by critics. Afterwards, Renoir travelled to Algeria, Italy and Spain and worked on mainly commissions during the 1880s.

Like Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, many of Renoir’s early paintings feature vibrant light and saturated colour. They often centre on people in candid or intimate moments. His early works including Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette focused on snapshots of real life filled with sparking colour and light. After the mid-1880s, Renoir used a more formal technique to create portraits and figure paintings. The move towards a more classical style was influenced by seeing works by Renaissance masters including Raphael. By 1890, Renoir returned to using thinly brushed colour like his early work. His later work included mostly nudes and domestic scenes, such as Girls at the Piano (1892). Throughout his life, Renoir created thousands of paintings. His style and use of sensuality make his paintings some of the most famous in the world. Renoir died at the age of 78 in 1919.