La Loge (The Theatre Box)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir showedâ€¯La Loge (The Theatre Box)â€¯ at the first Impressionist group exhibition in Paris in 1874. The paintingâ€¯wasâ€¯designedâ€¯makeâ€¯an impact there. Its modern subject of a contemporary, fashionable-looking couple in aâ€¯logeâ€¯at one of Parisâ€™s premiere theatres was unprecedented in painting. Renoirâ€™s tightly cropped composition, giving the sense of a snapshot of modern life, was highly unconventional. In addition, his careful staging of the figures in stereotypically gendered roles – the woman having lowered her opera glasses to become the focus of attention, the man having raised his to look at someone else in the audience – creates an intriguing game of gazes, surely intended to provoke comment.
Indeed, critics responded extensively to the painting. Some admired Renoirâ€™s new subject matter and his painterly technique, praising his â€˜qualities of observation and remarkable qualities ofâ€¯colour.â€™ However, several reviewers were troubled by the appearance of Renoirâ€™s couple, especially the woman. They were concerned that she was not a respectably married member of fine society but rather a victim of fashion, overly dressed and excessively made-up, trying to push her way onto the social scene.
Although new to painting in 1874, theatre boxâ€¯subjects were a familiar feature of French fashion magazines, where they provided a stage for illustrations of women modelling the latest evening wear.â€¯Logesâ€¯were also often pictured in satirical journals as a setting to poke fun at their occupantsâ€™ social foibles or romantic liaisons. Renoirâ€™sâ€¯La Logeâ€¯contains aspects of both contemporary fashion and satire, but his main concern was in demonstrating his dazzling painting technique. The scene was carefully arranged in the artistâ€™s studio, with a model calledâ€¯Niniâ€¯Lopez posing for the woman and Renoirâ€™s brother, Edmond, the man,Â in order forÂ Renoir to create a symphony in black and white. The bold stripes of the womanâ€™s highly fashionable dress are a flamboyant counterpoint to the manâ€™s similarly-colouredâ€¯evening attire.â€¯Hisâ€¯brushwork is delicate and fluentâ€¯throughout.â€¯The virtuoso performance of works such asâ€¯La Logeâ€¯soon established Renoir as one of the leading Impressionist painters of his generation.
La Loge can be viewed in the ante room of the LVMH Great Room.
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