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Art / Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe

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Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, known to English-speakers as The Luncheon on the Grass, is a 81.9 x 104.1 in (208 by 264.5 cm) oil painting by father of Impressionism Édouard Manet. Originally titled Le Bain (The Bath), Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe depicts two men and two women at what remains of a picnic out in the open. The men are fully clothed, while one woman faces the viewer, having stripped down to nothing, while the other woman is scantily clad in the pond in the background.


Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe provides examples of:

  • Art Imitates Art: Manet had a deep understanding of art history, having based the painting off of Judgement of Paris (ca. 1515) by Marcantonio Raimondi and Raphael, Pastoral Concert by Giorgione or Titian, The Tempest by Giorgione and La Partie Carrée by Antoine Watteau.
  • Dining in the Buff: Depicts one of the women enjoying the picnic completely naked.
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: Downplayed. The men are fully-clothed in Parisian fashion. One of the women is wearing a white dress that is made transparent due to her time in the water, while the other is completely naked, the blue dress and hat beside her implying that she had stripped where they had laid out their picnic.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Her nipples are completely covered by her arm and the shadow it casts, though there is Sideboob.
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  • Our Nudity Is Different: In a case of Your Normal Is Our Taboo, one of the reasons behind the painting's controversy is due to the figures in the painting were modern, the clothed figures wearing fashionable Parisian hinting at the painting being set in modern times. At the time, nude men and women depicted in paintings were normally goddesses and other mythical figures, so the fact that the nude woman is a regular human without the pretense of myth and time was considered scandalous for its day. Others followed in that trend, such as Gustave Courbet with L'Origine du monde.
  • Stylistic Suck: While much of the composition of the painting could be considered amateur, what makes it different is that Manet purposefully made these errors.
    • The woman in the pond it too large for the amount of distance the painting implies her to be, with her thumb lining up with the man on the right's thumb to collapse the illusion of depth.
    • The nude woman is depicted with an absence of contrast you would see from nudes in other paintings, critics commenting that the lighting looks as though it was done in a studio. What few shadows there are depicts them as stark compared to her light skin, the shadows almost outlining her figure.
    • While the figures have impressive attention to detail, the grass and other details in the background looked loose and unfinished, something that would later define other Impressionist painters.
  • Take That!: the whole piece is Manet's artistic middle finger to the Salon, a long-running annual French exhibition that pretty much defined art at the time by virtue of "If the Salon rejects it, it's not art." The painting tightly follows all of the technical aspects of the style that the Salon endorsed, while blatantly mocking the Strictly Formula themes and subjects the juries traditionally favored, and parodying the quirks of pieces venerated as flawless.


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