Le déjeuner sur l’herbe by Edouard Manet

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Painting NameLe déjeuner sur l'herbe
Painter NameEdouard Manet
Completion Date1863
Size208 cm × 265.5 cm (81.9 in × 104.5 in)
TechniqueOil
MaterialCanvas
Current LocationMusée d'Orsay Paris

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe by Edouard Manet

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe means Luncheon on the Grass. This controversial and one of the masterpiece produced by Edouard Manet was rejected in the official Paris Salon and thus, ended up in exhibiting in the Salon des Refuses – where the rejected art-pieces are put on the show.

Le Déjeuner Sur l’herbe Analysis

The painting depicts total of four figures in the background of a garden with a little stream passing by. Apart from them, an anchored boat is visible with its oars. In the foreground is a basket spilling out the fruits and other stuff out of it.

Two men are described as dandies in many writings. They are clothed finely or even more than necessary for a normal, casual day. They are busy talking to each other.

Both women are more involved with their own agendas. The woman in background, slightly clad seems to be just coming out of the stream after a refreshing bath while the woman sitting beside the men looks very relaxed and gazes directly into the viewers’ eyes. Instead of ashamed of her bareness in front of men and also viewers, she looks confident and even seems to be analyzing her viewers.

Critiques have argued that despite being one of the finest works by the French artist, the painting lacks completion at some places. For instance, the little window above the bent woman from the trees is not as much detailed. Also the sunlit grass behind the right hand side man seems a bit smudgy. It also lets the audience know that the painting is created it in a studio instead of a real place. The main give away is the shadow-less lighting, which could only be observed in a studio-environment.

It also reveals artist’s disinterest in mundane areas of the scene. Manet broke the conventional rule of hiding  the brush-strokes and left them visible to the general audience. Such laziness is unaccepted in the works which are considered as masterpieces of the artist.

Though, such little imperfections weren’t the only reason for its rejection from Salon de Paris.

Visible and Implied Eroticism and Contemporary Controversy

Depicting nude figures is not a novel thing in paintings of Italy or other renaissance countries. It has been accepted as the basic learning subject. Most of the major artists during the renaissance period depicted historical or mythical subjects with lesser or greater nudity as the symbol of utter rawness in nature.

Though, Edouard Manet’s nudes had caught up huge controversies at the time. The main reasons were the unprecedented placements of the nudes and context they were depicted in.

The painting was -probably-executed in Paris in 19th century. During the time, there was a place, specifically a garden called Bois de Boulogne, where the prostitution was highly active and the place was shunned by the general public. Even today, the place is known for such activities.

Some interpretations, says that the painting resembles to Bois de Boulogne and instead of shunning it down, the painting admires it with the bold depiction of the women in front of the fully dressed men. As if, it was totally natural and accepted in the normal society.

Thus, the painting was rejected from the Salon de Paris and even its exhibition in Salon des Refuses wasn’t acclaimed by the general audience and critics. The denunciation was so strong that Salon des Refuses itself got popular after that incident of 1863 and even today the term is mainly referred to that condemnation. Famous symbolist painter Odilon Redon also publicly condemned the art-work.

Though, artist himself never seemed to be regretting his art-work. He seemed to be determined from the beginning as he used a comparatively large canvas which is conventionally used for historical paintings to provide grandeur and importance to the scene.

Currently, the painting is placed in Musee d’Orsay, Paris.

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