After the opening of the Paris-Saint Germain-en-Laye railway line in 1837, the people of Paris could travel to the banks of the Seine and discover all the joys of bathing, canoeing, guinguette dance cafes and restaurants. This happy atmosphere inspired the Impressionist painters including Monet, Degas, Sisley, Caillebotte and above all Renoir.

In Chatou, a location he nicknamed “the happiest place in the Paris area”, among other works Renoir produced his famous Déjeuner des Canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party), set in the Maison Fournaise guinguette. On the “Île des Impressionnistes”, in a well-preserved setting, the Fournaise restaurant with its excellent terrace alongside the Seine is still there today. The museum located just opposite provides a visual record of these happy times.

This painting forms part of the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.

In Chatou, we had lunch at the Fournaise restaurant, where Renoir painted his famous picture. Just half an hour from Paris, this peaceful setting alongside the Seine is certainly surprising, with the singing of birds in the background. I watched people having lunch, drinking wine, singing and dancing. They were soaking up the sheer joy of life. As was I, who was there to take my photos, to laugh with them, to drink wine and to share these happy moments!

Yasuhiro Ogawa



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