Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise presents a group of boaters relaxing after a meal in Chatou, a popular vacation spot situated on a small island in the River Seine. In the later decades of
the 19th century, easy and available train transportation altered the appearance of small villages along the Seine and the lives of these villages' inhabitants. Middle-class tourists from Paris soon
flocked to the region to boat, dine out, relax, and escape the hectic pace of city life.
In this painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir, a colleague of Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, the sunlight of a lovely summer day filters through the leaves and into the open-air restaurant. Two young men lounge at a table; between them is a young woman seen from the back, wearing the blue flannel then popular with female boaters. The fruit, wine, and glasses on the table (not to mention the posture of the boater, who languidly reclines in his chair holding a cigarette) indicate that lunch is over.
Like the scene itself, the palette and brushwork are both airy and relaxed. At this point in his career, Renoir was so committed to capturing the light-filled colors of the open air that he virtually eliminated blacks and grays from his palette. The shadows on the white clothing and the tablecloth in the foreground are pale blue, complementing the dark color of the woman's dress and echoing the hues of the sparkling river in the background. The artist's training as a decorative porcelain painter (he was one of few Impressionists who earned a living in manual trade before turning to painting) is apparent in his feathery brushstrokes and clear colors.