I’m lucky to study in western Massachusetts because I’m able to enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Mount Holyoke College is the perfect place to be in the fall. The campus is beautiful, it becomes colored with many shades of red, orange and yellow. But, being in New England, when winter starts approaching, it gets really cold! Yesterday we had a very cold day, the sky was completely white and looked like it was going to snow. It was one of those days where you just want to sit in your house, read a book, listen to some music, and best of all: drink a cup of hot chocolate. That is when I got my idea for my new post.
I did some research online and stumbled upon three amazing paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. All three of them portrait a woman drinking a cup of hot chocolate.
I love all three of them. It really amazes me to see how different the two later paintings look from the earlier one. It almost seems like they were made by two different artists. The first painting has many objects in the background and is very detailed. The other two are more simple, have less details and have softer colors. The line and color scheme of La Tasse de Chocolat and Femme prenant du Chocolat are very similar. The Cup of Chocolate, 1878, has many of the characteristics of Impressionist paintings. Renoir was one of the pioneers of Impressionism, and his early works reflect the style perfectly. His later works though are different. Renoir’s style changed. To me it looks like his brush strokes are more relaxed. You can read more about Renoir’s style and biography here.
The women in the paintings also look different from each other. The woman in the first painting looks more formal than the other two. Her dress and her hair style look more put together. Even the furniture looks more elegant and sophisticated. Her eyes look out into space, like she is waiting for someone to come and drink the chocolate with her. The women in the other two paintings look more informal and simple, their outfits and hair styles are very simple. Both women are looking into their cups; it looks like they are drinking chocolate on their own. The woman in the second painting looks like she just woke up. Her tired facial expression, the hand that she uses for support under her chin, her outfit and hairstyle, are all signs of that.
Of these three, my favorite painting is Femme prenant du Chocolat. I love how simple she looks. It’s amazing how Renoir was able to give the idea of sleepiness to her face.
In the 19th and 20th century, hot chocolate was a common breakfast drink in France. I think that in Europe, drinking hot chocolate in the morning is still something common. When I am at home in Italy, I sometimes drink hot chocolate for breakfast, especially when the weather is cold and grey like yesterday.
Here is a few links to learn more about chocolate and how it became popular in Europe.
And now a recipe on how to make French hot chocolate, which is creamier and is similar to what the women in the paintings are drinking.
Hope you enjoy!