Luncheon on the Grass, by Édouard Manet

“Luncheon on the Grass” Oil Painting on canvas. Édouard Manet

  1. In 1863, Édouard Manet shocked the French public by exhibiting his Déjeuner sur l’herbe (“Luncheon on the Grass“).
  2. It is not a realist painting in the social or political sense of Daumier, but it is a statement in favor of the artist’s individual freedom.
  3. The shock value of a nude woman casually lunching with two fully dressed men, which was an affront to the propriety of the time, was accentuated by the familiarity of the figures.
  4. Manet’s wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, and his favorite model, Victorine Meurent, both posed for the nude woman, which has Meurent’s face, but Leenhoff’s plumper body.
  5. Her body is starkly lit and she stares directly at the viewer. The two men are Manet’s brother Gustave Manet and his future brother-in-law, Ferdinand Leenhoff.
  6. They are dressed like young dandies. The men seem to be engaged in conversation, ignoring the woman.
  7. In front of them, the woman’s clothes, a basket of fruit, and a round loaf of bread are displayed, as in a still life.
  8. In the background a lightly clad woman bathes in a stream. Too large in comparison with the figures in the foreground, she seems to float above them.
  9. The roughly painted background lacks depth – giving the viewer the impression that the scene is not taking place outdoors, but in a studio.
  10. This impression is reinforced by the use of broad “photographic” light, which casts almost no shadows: in fact, the lighting of the scene is inconsistent and unnatural. The man on the right wears a flat hat with a tassel, of a kind normally worn indoors.
  11. Despite the mundane subject, Manet deliberately chose a large canvas size, normally reserved for historical subjects.
  12. The style of the painting breaks with the academic traditions of the time. He did not try to hide the brush strokes: indeed, the painting looks unfinished in some parts of the scene.
  13. The nude is a far cry from the smooth, flawless figures of Cabanel or Ingres.

Study notes, Source: Wikipedia