dance at moulin de la galette

Linda Evangelista playing the accordion in “Très Montmartre” for Vogue Italia, February 1992. Photograph by Ellen von Unwerth.

During the Belle Époque from 1872 to 1914, many notable artists lived and worked in Montmartre, where the rents were low and the atmosphere congenial. Pierre-Auguste Renoir rented space at 12 rue Cortot in 1876 to paint Bal du moulin de la Galette, showing a dance at Montmartre on a Sunday afternoon.

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This is something I wanted to turn into a comic for quite some time.

There’s no shortcut to becoming a good artist and there is no one magic skill that solves all of our art problems. Instead, there are tons of tiny skills - sometimes they go well together and let us create things we like. Sometimes, nothing seems to fit and we feel like we can’t do anything right, even though we put so much work into learning those skills. Some skills connect, some don’t. Some suddenly fall into place once we learn one particular missing skill. Sometimes we don’t even know what skill we’re looking for, until we manage to learn a bunch of others. And in the end, we can tell apart skills that looked like a colourful mess when we just started out, looking for easy clues. 

Just like a puzzle. 

(The painting in the comic is Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876 by Auguste Renoir, who in fact is the gentleman)

Moulin de la Galette, Paris (1920). John Maclauchlan Milne (Scottish, 1885-1957). Oil on board.

Milne’s artistic style is characterised by broad brushwork and was heavily influenced by the painting of Cézanne; by contrast the looser, more dynamic application of paint in this work invokes a sense of swirling motion. The fluid brushwork is reminiscent of Cadell’s view of the Assembly Rooms (1908) and Fergusson’s A Montmartre Nightclub (1907), both of which evoke similarly bustling social scenes.

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876). Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919). Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay.

Renoir’s main aim was to convey the vivacious and joyful atmosphere of this popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre. The study of the moving crowd, bathed in natural and artificial light, is handled using vibrant, brightly coloured brushstrokes. The somewhat blurred impression of the scene prompted negative reactions from contemporary critics.

Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette (1905-06). Isaac Israëls (Dutch, 1865–1934). Oil on canvas.

Israëls was particularly interested in conveying the idea of a moment captured in time and a sense of spontaneity. This painting conveys a sense of motion and an almost abrupt framing of the image. His artistry lies in the sense of immediacy he produces, his ability to place the viewer inside the image.

Le Moulin de la Galette (1900). Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Oil on canvas. Guggenheim.

Le Moulin de la Galette, his first Parisian painting, reflects his fascination with the lusty decadence and gaudy glamour of the famous dance hall, where bourgeois patrons and prostitutes rubbed shoulders. Picasso had yet to develop a unique style, but Le Moulin de la Galette is nonetheless a startling production for an artist who had just turned 19.