“Luncheon on the Grass” Oil Painting on canvas. Édouard Manet
- In 1863, Édouard Manet shocked the French public by exhibiting his Déjeuner sur l’herbe (“Luncheon on the Grass“).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- They are dressed like young dandies. The men seem to be engaged in conversation, ignoring the woman.
- 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.
- 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.
- The roughly painted background lacks depth – giving the viewer the impression that the scene is not taking place outdoors, but in a studio.
- 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.
- Despite the mundane subject, Manet deliberately chose a large canvas size, normally reserved for historical subjects.
- 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.
- The nude is a far cry from the smooth, flawless figures of Cabanel or Ingres.
Study notes, Source: Wikipedia