La Loge by Pierre-Auguste Renoir shows the artist's affinity for scenes that are focused on interactions among human beings. The painting of La Loge or the Theatre Box shows an elegantly dressed couple attending a performance at the theatre.
It is currently a part of the collection at London's Courtauld Institute Of Art.
Renoir is known as a master of Impressionist painting and he has been studied for years by people who enjoy his skill with using light in his work. This Impressionist painting lives up to that reputation.
Soft hues flatter the man and woman in the painting, showing the elegance of Parisian living at that time. The work may remind some viewers in a way of Mary Cassatt's Two Women In a Theatre Box or Edgar Degas' Theatre Box.
These three artists all enjoyed studying human behaviour and especially, the way people behaved at opulent social gatherings. Their portrayal of men and women in lavish surroundings is intriguing. This is especially so since their paintings serve as a reflection of society's values and the issues that preoccupied theatre patrons at that time. Renoir's painting tells a story which may be more filled with drama than whatever is supposedly unfolding on stage.
This painting helped to make Renoir's reputation as an artist grow. The unpredictability of its topic and its virtuoso strategy set up the craftsman's notoriety for being one of the pioneers of Impressionism. At the time, Impressionism was a radical new development in French workmanship. Renoir's sibling Edmond and Nini Lopez, a model from Montmartre who was also known as "Fish-face", are the models in this particular work of art.
In any case, a great part of the appeal of the theatre for the wealthy class was the chance to see and be seen. La Loge deftly catches that mind boggling interaction of looks that would be typically be cast and received at a night out. The lady brings down her glasses, inferring that she is no longer viewing the occasion. This also permits her face to be seen.
While on the surface the scene appears to be refined and a bit moderate in behaviour, prostitution was overflowing among the entertainers. The ladies and gentlemen of high society felt themselves progressively encroached upon by kept courtesans. They also felt threatened by the more financially fruitful ladies who were using their skills to build a life in Paris. Renoir utilises this feeling of social instability all through the depiction.
Contemporary surveys highlight the trouble with making social judgements about individuals. One modern commentator announced that the lady portrayed is a figure from the universe of class. Another had a completely different opinion and refereed to her as a notice sent out to warn young ladies against vanity. Her dress is rich, with the solid vertical stripes which were in vogue at the time.
The female patron's dress is supplemented by the inconspicuous shades of the new roses in her hair and inside the piece of clothing that adorns her. Her accessories are extravagant yet straightforward, a gold arm ornament and a long pearl necklace. To the viewer, it is hard to determine whether she is dressing too much and luxuriously, or just complying with the desires of her associates. For hints to this a person studying the painting may look to how she seems to be behaving.
At the heart of this insightful artistic creation is interplay between these two figures situated in a theatre box. The man is Renoir's sibling Edmond. He is portrayed reclining in his seat as he scrutinises the other guests through his glasses. In moving in the opposite direction of the pair, Renoir centred upon the theatre as a social stage where status and connections were on open show.
The male figure suggests that we too are male, hunting the musical house for the most satisfying lady. Men were going to the musical show under the affectation of scholarly support. However some were just interested in finding women to seduce. The other role viewers are able to take on is that of the female.
She is marginally knowing and is very likely to be aware that the man beside her is looking at other women. She is neither completely empowering him nor outraged by his behaviour. It is implied that she's so used to it in her own group of friends that it no longer merits a reaction. She turns out to be practically typical of a lady's involvement with her partner in Paris in the 1870s.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.