I thoroughly enjoyed this book about Renoir's painting of The Luncheon Party and felt as if I was there observing the whole process, together with all the participants. I found I was constantly flipping back and forth between the painting and the details in the story. It made the painting come alive for me.
After I read this, I read The Judgment of Paris. a history of the beginnings of the Impressionist movement. Vreeland writes fiction but has done much research and most of the details are buttressed by facts. It was fun to read about the times and the problems of the artists and also, there's a little love interest,
This is the story of Renoir's famous painting 'Luncheon of the Boating Party,' a work completed on the balcony of the restaurant La Maison Fournaise, just outside of Paris. Combining historical fact with Ms. Vreeland's vivid imagination we learn how the painting came into existence and how the models were chosen and gathered, as well as a sense of the time and place. The models' identities are largely based on historical fact, but as with all works of historical fiction the author uses her vivid imagination in guessing their conversations, relationships and emotions. There is something compelling about an author bringing to life the story of a work of art. The characters become familiar and spark curiosity about who they were, the location becomes a real place one could visit, and the art itself becomes an intimate friend. Vreeland's background in and her passion for fine art is clearly a prerequisite in producing a story like this. The descriptions of the colors, clothing and food I can only describe as "delicious" and caused me to nearly feel that I was actually there among them.
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