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The Fournaise family
From the mid 1850s, became an extremely popular recreation for the many Parisians who wished to escape their fraught city life.
In 1857, Monsieur Fournaise, a boat maker, established his business on the island of Chatou.
Next door to his workshop, Madame Fournaise made use of her skill as a cook by opening a restaurant.
Monsieur Fournaise organised many boating events and regattas.
Their daughter Alphonsine, (a renowned model), greeted the clients whilst their son, Alphonse tended to the ladies and ensured their smooth boarding.
Learning about the letter 
Le chiffre, c'est l'entrelacement des initiales d'Alphonse Fournaise, restaurateur et constructeur de canots. Il est forgé à l'angle du balcon de la maison Fournaise où a été peint le tableau "Déjeuner des Canotiers" de Pierre Auguste Renoir.
The impressionists open air cafe
Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley,
Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet,
Camille Pissarro, and Pierre Prins were amongst those that habitually walked the island in search of that elusive, perfect light that shimmers upon the waters of the Seine. Intellectuals and bohemian writers only some of whom were distinguished also frequented a haven for impressionist painters in search of tranquillity and fresh air, Chatou!

Edgar Degas was a close friend of Alphonsine, Gustave Caillebotte enjoyed rowing locally and Guy de Maupassant often spoke of the heart-warming atmosphere of La maison Fournaise.
In many of his novels,(including “La femme de Paul”, and “Mouche”), he refers to the restaurant Fournaise as the “restaurant Grillon”.)
Renoir and « Le déjeuner des canotiers. » 
From 1868 to 1884, Pierre Auguste Renoir was a regular guest of the Fournaise restaurant. He once declared: “I was constantly spending my time chez Fournaise-there I found as many beautiful girls as one could ever wish to paint!” In 1880, he wrote to a friend: “I am delayed at Chatou because of a painting I am working on. It would be marvellous if you could join me here for luncheon.
You will not regret the journey since this is the most charming corner in the near vicinity of Paris”
The painting Renoir referred to was “le dejeuner des canotiers” which was painted on the balcony of the restaurant Fournaise in 1881. (It is now part of the Phillips collection in Washington.)
Renoir painted three-dozen pictures at Chatou and his portrait of Alphonsine is now hanging at the Musee dorsa in Paris.
The two Fauves

André Derain (Chatou born) and Maurice de Vlaminck set up their studio in the Levanneur house near to the Fournaise restaurant. Guillaume Apollinaire and Henri Matisse visited frequently and this freethinking elite let loose their creativity. The particularly vivid colours used by the Fauvists illustrate the aesthetic atmosphere that these meetings ignited.
During the first years of the 20th Century, the two Fauves represented the pictorial Avant-garde movement

The fall and Renaissance of La Maison Fournaise
In 1906, Alphonsine closed the house. (She died in 1937). During a long, sad period of neglect, the house became almost derelict until the city of Chatou purchased it in l977.

In 1982 it was finally listed as building of historic significance, joined the register of “Les Monuments Historiques” and was subsequently fully restored. The funds for the restoration were supplied by the Municipality, the Region, the Department and most notably by “The Friends of La Maison Fournaise” and “The Friends of French Art”.


Now a museum, La Maison Fournaise has also returned to it original business. In 1990 a restaurant reopened on the premises - featuring prints by the scathing caricaturists of its heyday!
le Musée Fournaise
Nowadays visitors enter the museum, which occupies the entire upper floor, via the rear entrance, (the Boathouse).
Despite not owning any Impressionist masterpiece’s, the museums’ vast library, it’s documentation of La Maison Fournaise and the golden era of the Seine from the mid 1850’s makes it’s impressive collection of great historical significance.
The museum regularly exhibits the works of minor 19th Century artists - which recapture the mood of the time – and illustrates the unique feeling of what it meant to be a dedicated artist in Chatou. Included among the many events: “l’Absinthe”,” Mythe et realite”, “Felix Braquemond, graveur, du realisme au Japonisme”,”Pierre Prins, l’ami de Manet,” ou “le canotage, l’aventure des premiers loisirs”, etc.
The museum aims, (with the help of the Municipality of Chatou), to establish La Maison Fournaise as a leading reference source in the history of Impressionism and the Fauvist movements. The exhibits and retrospectives of Albert Lebourg and Armand Guillaumin particularly support this endeavour.