The painting I have chosen is Luncheon on the grass, by Édouard Manet. It was painted in 1863. At the beginning this painting received the name The Bath, but it was changed four years later. It was rejected by the Salon Jury, so it was shown for the first time in the Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejected, created by Napoleon III due to the indignation of all those who admired Manet) the same year it was painted. At the moment it is exhibited in the Museum of Orsay in Paris. It is an oil painting on canvas and its dimensions are 208 cm x 264.5 cm. This painting was considered to be in poor taste due to the naked woman who is seating with dressed men and people didn’t like the female nude, because she wasn’t a mythological figure, she was only a normal woman. It received critics due to the modernity of the style.
The painting represents a luncheon in the forest. In the foreground of the painting we can see two men and a woman having lunch. The two men are dressed elegantly. The man on the right is Gustave, Manet’s brother. He is wearing a black beret, a white shirt with an orange tie, a black jacket, grey trousers and black shoes and he is holding a stick in his left hand. The other man is the sculptor Ferdinand Leenhoff, Manet’s future brother-in-law. He is wearing a white shirt with a black tie, a black jacket and grey trousers. The naked woman is Victorine Meurent, a French painter and model. She became famous because she was Édouard Manet’s favourite model, but she also painted some paintings that were exposed in the Paris Salon. This naked woman is more visible than the rest and she is looking directly to the viewer. The two men are talking and they aren’t paying attention to the woman. In the foreground, to the left, we see the woman’s clothes and the food of the breakfast. In the background there is another woman slightly dressed with a white dress. She is probably Suzanne Leenhoff, Manet’s wife. And farther on the right there is a small boat. The luncheon is taking place in the nature. The figures are surrounded by trees and grass.
It seems that they are in a studio instead of in the open air, because the painting is roughly painted and it gives the impression that it hasn’t got depth. This impression is reinforced for the use of a powerful light that doesn’t leave shadows. Besides, the scene illumination isn’t natural and the man who is on the right is wearing a beret, which was normally used in interiors.
The style of the painting was something new for the era. Manet used an unrefined light that eliminated the half tones. It is considered a “pre-impressionist” painting. The work is classic. Nevertheless, Manet didn’t try to hide the brush-strokes and the painting seems to be unfinished in some parts of the scene.
Manet drew contrasts between shadow and light and this was new at that time. For that, people reproached him his "obsession to see with stain". The figures don’t seem to be integrated in this set of the nature. The set is more suggested than painted because the perspective is ignored and it hasn’t got much depth.
Two women posed to draw the naked woman: Manet’s wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, and his favourite model, Victorine Meurent. The result of this was that Manet drew his wife’s body, because she was more robust, and Victorine’s face.
These were the models: at the top we can see Suzanne Leenhoff and at the bottom we can see Victorine Meurent:
The possible meaning of this painting is to represent the uncontrolled prostitution in the Bois de Boulogne, a large park in Paris.
For this painting Manet drew inspiration from The Pastoral Concert by Titian and from Judgement of Paris by Rafael.
It was also inspired on Young Ladies on the Bank of the Seine by Courbet and on The tempest, by Giorgione.
In 1865 Claude Monet tried to pay tribute and challenge Manet’s Luncheon on the grass. He started painting his version, but he didn’t finish it, because he had to pay his rent and when he had enough money to recover his painting, it was damaged and he divided it into three parts. Only two parts remain in the Orsay Museum in Paris. Monet portrayed Manet on this painting. He also changed the boy who was seated on the tablecloth for a man very similar to Courbet. Monet gave more importance to the luminous contrasts, he mixed the colors and he gave less importance to the shine and to the spontaneity of the studies.
These are the two remaining panels
On the left, you have the first sketch and on the right, the final version with Courbet’s portrait
In 1961, Pablo Picasso made more than 27 paintings, 6 etchings y 140 drawings inspired on Manet’s painting.
The French Pop- art artist Alain Jacquet made a parody of Déjeuner sur l'herbe in 1964.
In 2002, the Russian painters Dubossarsky and Vinogradov painted a Déjeuner sur l'herbe as a tribute to the impressionist painters.
Luncheon on the grass marked the beginning of the modern painting, but another Manet’s painting also marked the beginning of the modern painting. It is Olympia, also painted in 1863.
In my opinion, at the beginning I didn’t like the painting, I thought it was boring and it wasn’t interesting, but finally I think that the painting is beautiful. I like it because it is a daring painting. Manet was so brave to present this painting, and I also like it because it has a lot of mysteries and it is interesting to research about it. Now, I think that there are a lot of things to learn from art!