Dance at Moulin de la Galette

Dance at Moulin de la Galette

by Renoir

The Bal au moulin de la Galette is a painting by the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, made in 1876 and kept at the Orsay Museum in Paris.


The Dance at the Moulin de la Galette is one of Renoir’s best known works and is unanimously considered one of the highest masterpieces of the first Impressionism. The painting, despite its great freshness and intensity, was characterized by a very elaborate gesture, carefully described by his friend Georges Rivière in his memoirs Renoir et ses amis. Renoir thought of painting a parade of Parisian world life at the time of Belle Époque since May 1876, and found in the Moulin de la Galette a subject that was perfectly suited to his needs. The Moulin de la Galette was a very popular Parisian restaurant, obtained by renovating two abandoned windmills and located on top of the Montmartre hill. The name of the venue, in particular, refers to the rustic pancakes offered for consumption and included in the entrance price, which at that time was twenty-five cents. When Renoir waited for the painting, the place was crowded with people: there were a lot of young people, artists and not, who decided to spend their afternoons at Moulin on Sunday, dancing, drinking, discussing, or spending time with friends and having fun. ]

To speed up the painting’s performance already in April 1875, Renoir had rented a large study in rue Cortot in Montmartre, consisting of two huge rooms, a store where to paint the paintings and a garden depicted by the Rivière in terms of a “Lovely and abandoned park”. Nevertheless, the painter had to face many difficulties, surpassing them only thanks to the collaboration of several friends who helped him daily to carry the canvas from his atelier to the local people, risking more than being overwhelmed by the wind. In order not to mortify the freshness of his pictorial verve, Renoir realized that he could not give up plein air. He, however, completed the gesture of the painting in his studio at Rue Cortot without compromising the perceptual immediacy of the work. Renoir attended the Moulin for six months in an attempt to come in contact “with that small world that has its typical appearance and,” as Brother Edmond remembers, “immersed in the swirl of that popular festival, makes the movement indifferent with a verve that stuns. ” For the various figures who populated the opera Renoir, this time even this time, friends, acquaintances or even frequent visitors of the locality lay.

It was a bold bet, as it was the first time Renoir abdicated from depicting single figures and faced a crowded scene of moving figures. The work was presented at the third exhibition of Impressionists in 1877 and aroused a great welcome: a critic of the Moniteur Universel, for example, venomously criticized the performance of dancing figures “on a surface similar to the violet clouds that obscure the sky in a day of storm. ” Of course, the Rivière, who said enthusiastically that Renoir had produced “a page of history, a precious moment of Parisian life, of rigorous accuracy.” [5] The cloth was in fact destined to become one of the major expressions of the so-called ‘Romantic Impressionism’, characterized by the representation of bourgeois love and particularly appreciated by collectors, especially Americans. The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, joined as part of the collection of Gustave Caillebotte, was consecrated to the museum’s officiality in 1896 when it was acquired by the Musée du Luxembourg; present in the Louvre since 1929, the opera found its definitive location in 1986, exhibiting at the Orsay Museum.


In the dance at the moulin de la Galette Renoir tells a popular time of life in Paris, depicting a Sunday dance that takes place on the tree-lined terrace of the Moulin de la Galette, which we mentioned in the previous paragraph. The various figures that populate the scene are gay, carefree, and let themselves be overwhelmed by emotions and joie de vivre, enjoying the sun of a spring afternoon, the excellence of French food and wine, and the suspended time of being together .

In the foreground we notice a palette of people picked up in live and natural attitudes: the girls on the left are radiant and are lovingly conversing with a young visor. They have already ordered drinks, as can be seen from the table still clogged with bottles and crystals, and are now giving away an ordinary moment of leisure. Just think of the right guy who is contemplating the scene that opens in front of him with curiosity, or the man with a cylinder behind him, caught while he is tired

This post is also available in: itItaliano