Musicians and Artists: Pearson and Renoir

B.R. Pearson’s Dance at Bougival Inspired by Renoir

In his 1883 painting, Dance at Bougival, French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) created a near–life-size portrait of two dancers in the milieu of an open-air café. His painting has captured the couple in motion, with his hand at her waist and her hand clasped in his, with her other hand around the back of his neck. She’s fashionably dressed in a ruching pink gown touched with red that is echoed in her red hat. He’s in a dark blue suit and shirt, with a straw hat. The tan of his hat is picked up in the tan and darker brown of his shoes.

Renoir: Dance at Bougival, 1883 (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)

Renoir: Dance at Bougival, 1883 (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)

Behind them, other men and women sit at wooden green tables, their drinks in front of them. Women’s hats are dressed in bright colours and the men have top hats or less-formal derbies. At the dancer’s feet is the detritus of the café: matches and cigarette butts and a purple bouquet lie discarded.

Her dress of pastel pink pops from the painting, a style Renoir learned from his study of painting in Italy where spotlighting humans in a painting was a common technique. Although this is an Impressionist painting, Renoir was also trying to show his skill in the more classical mode. After a decade of portraits showing Parisians at their leisure, Renoir was looking for a new market of portraits and landscapes.

This painting was one of three produced very quickly in 1883 for the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. The three ‘Dance’ paintings show dancers from various social classes, all painted near–life-size. All were completed between January and April 1883.

Renoir: Dance in the City, 1883 (Paris: Musée d'Orsay)

Renoir: Dance in the City, 1883 (Paris: Musée d’Orsay)

Renoir: Dance in the Country, 1883 (Paris: Musée d'Orsay)

Renoir: Dance in the Country, 1883 (Paris: Musée d’Orsay)

Pianist B.R. Pearson created a piano portrait of the painting in his 2009 collection Paintings in the Hall. He sets the dancers in motion, swirling on the dirt dance area next to the tables of the café. The music flows around the dancers and around the viewer, seeming to go on forever.

B.R. Pearson: Dance at Bougival (Renoir) (B.R.Pearson, piano)

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