Monday, October 3, 2011

Renoir's Dance at Bougival

In Renoir’s impressionistic, Dance at Bougival, your eye in drawn immediately to the two faces framed in the upper third of the painting. The painting does not look back at you in any way, which leaves the audience feeling like they’ve just seen something they shouldn’t have. The girl looks at the ground, her partner looks at her intensely, the other people in the painting look at each other. His very dark and undefined suit against her white and detailed gown creates two very different energies in the painting which are also the biggest contrast between dark and light in the painting, an interesting parallel. Your eye travels from her averted gaze, to the group of sitting partygoers all looking at each other and seeming to be enjoying themselves, to the riffles of her skirts, and down to the flower on the ground.

The tone and emotion of the painting is tense, in contrast with the couple’s gay surroundings. The dancing girl looks away as if she unenthused by her dance partner. He seems very forward and seems to be encouraging her appeal, but she isn’t having any of it. . The red hat that surrounds almost her entire face pulls the eye to the expression on her face. She seems very unhappy and as she looks away, her mind somewhere else, anywhere but where she is. Renoir’s impressionistic brush stokes emulate the spinning, the movement of the dance while the couple remains in focus as if you, the audience is another dancer on the floor who happened to look over and see this. Painted so the audience would be eye level with the dancers, the viewers can easily imagine themselves involved in the strange scene, although the painting itself is smaller than life-size.

This painting has a very interesting place on the picture plane. The backdrop of the scene, painted with wide, undefined strokes, remains more abstract and subjective than the focal point of the painting. The trees and lights and sky cannot be distinguished from one another. As the focus moves forward in the painting, the faces become more defined, but still not specific. However, when you come to the couple in the forefront of the painting, Renoir has painted their faces with much more detail. The man’s face is given much less importance. It’s been hidden under his hat and his beard obscures most of his face. Her face however is very realistic and specific. Her emotions are plainly written on her face. It is the emotions and movement in the painting make it much more specific and realistic and much less iconic or universal.

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