Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe
Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass), originally titled Le Bain (The Bath), is an oil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet. Painted between 1862 and 1863 it measures 208 by 264.5 cm. The juxtaposition of a female nude with fully dressed men sparked controversy when the work first exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. The piece is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
- "Painters, and especially Édouard Manet, who is an analytic painter, do not share the masses' obsession with the subject: to them, the subject is only a pretext to paint, whereas for the masses only the subject exists."
In the foreground, three characters are seated on the grass: a naked woman and two men dressed like dandies. The woman, whose body is starkly lit, looks frankly in the direction of the viewer. The man on the right wears a flat hat with a tassel. The men seem to be engaged in conversation, ignoring the woman. In front of them, the clothes of the woman, a basket of fruit and a round loaf of bread are displayed as in a still life. In the background, another woman is draped in an almost transparent cloth, bathing in a small pond. Too large in comparison with the figures in the foreground, she seems to float.
The roughly painted backround lacks depth — giving the viewer the impression that the scene does not take place outdoors, but in a studio. The 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 hat the man wears was normally only for indoor use.
Manet's wife, Suzanne Leenhoff , and his favorite model, Victorine Meurent, both modelled for the nude woman, which has Meurent's face but the plumper Leenhoff's body. The man on the left is probably Manet's brother-in-law Rodolphe Leenhoff.
The style of the painting breaks with the academic traditions of the time. Manet used a harsh, "photographic" light that eliminates the mid-tones. He did not try to hide the brush strokes: indeed, the painting looks unfinished in some parts of the scenery. The nude is a far cry from the smooth, flawless ones of Cabanel or Ingres.
Despite the mundane subject, Manet deliberately chose a large canvas size, normally reserved for grander subjects.
The painting can be interpreted as a modern version of The Pastoral Concert (c. 1510) by the Renaissance painter Giorgione (though the work has also been attributed to Giorgione's pupil Titian).  In this allegory of poetry, we see two nude women (the Muses of epic and bucolic poetry) in the company of two well-dressed young men, one of them playing a lute. The scene is situated in an arcadian landscape.
Manet re-elaborated this theme with modern characters, presenting the scene as a "picnic in the woods". Le déjeuner is, in fact, a manifesto of a new way of painting, and of a new conception of art and of the relation between art and its public.
The composition, on the other hand, derives from a scene with river gods in an engraving (c. 1510) by Marcantonio Raimondi (after a drawing by Raphael), The Judgment of Paris.  However, by adding the (disproportionate) bathing woman in the background, Manet upset the harmony of his example.
The depiction of two couples relaxing in a park or similar setting was a classic subject in gallant genre painting, as illustrated by Antoine Watteau's La Partie carrée (The Foursome) (1713).  Manet's contemporary and friend James Tissot painted his version of this theme in 1870. 
In 1865, Claude Monet started painting his own Déjeuner sur l'herbe as an answer to Manet's example. However, this enormous work (4.6 by more than 6 m) remained unfinished. It depicts a more socially acceptable scene of bourgeois recreation, but as it is foremost a demonstration the new impressionist style, the focus is more on the light effects than on the subject itself. The subtle play of light and shadow demonstrates the advantages of plein air painting and contrasts with Manet's unnatural studio light. After part of the monumental painting was damaged by dampness, Monet cut it in three. The left and central sections are now in the Musée d'Orsay, but the third is lost. A study for the work is in the Pushkin Museum.
In 1961, almost a century after Manet painted his Déjeuner, the aging Picasso tackled this monument of modern art. In less than two years, he made 27 paintings, six linocuts and 140 drawings after Manet's work.
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