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Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir’s "Luncheon of the Boating Party" exhibition records

Identifier: IR-CUR-025

Scope and Contents

Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir's “Luncheon of the Boating Party” was held at The Phillips Collection in the Goh Annex from September 21, 1996 through February 23, 1997. The exhibition was the first to explore the origins of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's great masterwork, as well as to place it in the broader context of Impressionist river landscapes and views of outdoor leisure enjoyed by 19th-century Parisians along the Seine. Displayed with The Luncheon of the Boating Party were works by Renoir and his contemporaries, fellow artists Gustave Caillebotte, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley, all of whom pursued related subjects on nearby locations along the river from 1868 to 1882. The exhibition included 60 paintings on loan from 43 museums and private collections in ten countries, and was accompanied by a richly-illustrated catalogue published by Counterpoint Press. The show did not travel to any other venues.

Support for the exhibition was made possible by the Ford Motor Company. A significant grant was provided by Mobil Corporation, with addition funding from the Janet Hooker Charitable Trust, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Christian Human Foundation, Coca-Cola Company, United Airlines, and Artex Inc. Indemnity support was provided by the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.

Materials in this record group consist of research data and primary documentation created or assembled by the curatorial team that organized and coordinated Impressionist on the Seine: Eliza Rathbone, Chief Curator and Project Director, and Katherine Rothkopf, Assistant Curator, working in association with director Charles Moffett, whose documentation also appears in the records. As evidenced in the records, their early working titles for the exhibition included: At the Water’s Edge: Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party and The Luncheon of the Boating Party: Renoir at Chatou. The files primarily document the research activities, catalogue preparation, and planning and implementation that took place for the exhibition.


  • 1879 - 1998
  • Majority of material found within 1994 - 1997
  • Usage: The material in this collection were used in preparation for the 1996 exhibition.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection includes restricted material.

Biographical / Historical

In 1996, The Phillips Collection celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. In honor of that banner year, a major exhibition, Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir's “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” was opened to the public, organized around the Collection's single most important painting, The Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Duncan Phillips acquired the painting in 1923 from the private collection of the Durand-Ruel family, for what was at that time the highest price ever paid for a work by Renoir. The Luncheon of the Boating Party (Le Dejeuner des Canotiers) remains synonymous with the history of The Phillips Collection where it has been a focal point ever since.

Held in 1996-1997, the show was the first in a series of Impressionist exhibitions created at The Phillips Collection by Charles S. Moffett during his tenure as director (1992-1998). A specialist in the field of painting of late-nineteenth-century France, Moffett went on to organize the nationally touring Impressionists in Winter: Effets de Neige, on view at the Phillips in 1998, and Impressionist Still Life, co-organized with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, held at the Phillips in 2001-2002.

As the centerpiece of the museum's 75th anniversary celebrations, Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir's “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” proved to be the most successful show in the history of the museum with nearly 200,000 visitors over the course of its five-month run. Due to its enormous popularity, the show was extended for a two-week period and all attendance records for a single exhibition at the museum were shattered.


6 Linear Feet (14 full legal boxes)

Language of Materials



Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” exhibition records contain materials created and collected by the Curatorial Department, The Phillips Collection, during the course of organizing the exhibition. Included are research,catalogue, and exhibition planning files.


The collection is organized into three major series. Each series is divided into secondary subseries, with the arrangement described in detail in the series and subseries descriptions. Series 1: Research, 1879-1996 (boxes 1-4; 1.5 linear ft.) Series 2: Catalogue Planning, 1923; 1993-1998 (boxes 4-6; 1 linear ft.) Series 3: Exhibition Planning, 1992-1997 (boxes 6-14; 3.5 linear ft.)

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Gloves are required to handle photographic items in boxes 5 and 6.

Custodial History

This collection is owned by The Phillips Collection and was accessioned from the curators' offices.

Related Materials

The Phillips Collection Library houses exhibition history files, arranged chronologically. Included is a file folder (TPC1996.5) containing publicity materials and final checklist for the exhibition Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir's “Luncheon of the Boating Party.”

Processing Information

After an initial survey of the collection, the files of collaborators Rathbone and Rothkopf were integrated for ease of use. Some duplicate materials were identified and a number of documents were determined to be of no future reference value for the collection (culled). In discussions with the librarian, approval was given to photocopy documentation. Boxes and folders containing restricted materials were marked with a red dot. Folder headings were maintained when possible, but were re-written in some cases for greater clarity and accuracy. Metal fasteners were removed and replaced with plastic clips, when needed. Adhesive Post-it® notes were photocopied if necessary, otherwise removed. All documents were re-foldered into acid-free folders.

Special Note: Accents were omitted from French words to promote ease of searching.

Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir’s "Luncheon of the Boating Party" exhibition records, 1879-1999
The Phillips Collection Library and Archives 1600 21st Street NW Washington D.C. 20009
Colleen Hennessey, Archives Assistant, supervised by Karen Schneider, Librarian
August-November 2011
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Phillips Collection Archives Repository

1600 21st St. NW
Washington DC 20009 United States