Le déjeuner sur l’herbe

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe
Artist Édouard Manet
Year 1862–1863
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Dimensions 81.9 in × 104.5 in
208 cm × 265.5 cm
Famous Paintings by Manet
Le déjeuner sur l’herbe
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
The Balcony
The Fifer
The Railway
The Spanish Singer
The Old Musician
Complete Works

‘Le déjeuner sur l’herbe’, or as it is known in English, The Luncheon on the Grass, is a painting by Édouard Manet. This rather large painting is an oil on canvas which Manet worked on between 1862 and 1863.

In the painting one can see four people, namely two men and two women. The men are fully dressed in black suits, whereas one of the women is scantily dressed and the other one is nude. They are sitting on the grass in a rural setting, seemingly enjoying lunch. This painting sparked a lot of interest and controversy at the time. In fact it was not approved by the Salon Jury. Hence, Manet decided to exhibit it at the Salon de Refuses. The public felt that it was not appropriate to depict two nude women at ease, outside with two men.

Moreover, the controversy became even bigger since the two women resembled Manet’s wife and one of his models. The two men depicted in the painting are Manet’s brother and his brother-in-law to be.

Artistic Techniques

There are various points worth noting in this painting. Primarily, Manet purposely chose a large canvas, even though there was no evident need for it. There is a lot of black background all around them, and the characters themselves do not take up much of the area.

The brush strokes are clearly evident and Manet made no attempt to try and hide them. As a result, in some areas one might end up thinking that the painting is unfinished.

The nude people he painted are rather plump, which is not common with the generally flawless bodies other painters used as models. The naked woman is also evidently looking straight in the eye of whoever is looking at the painting. Her body is lit up so as to make her stand out against the dark background and the dark colored clothes of the men sitting near her.

The other woman who is seen bathing in a nearby stream is rather large when compared to the other characters.

The background is rather roughly painted. Many commented about the fact that it lacks depth and as a result it becomes rather evident that the scene did not really take place in an outdoor setting, but in a studio. There is also the use of broad photographic light as there are no visible shadows either.

The basket, the loaf of bread and the naked woman’s clothes are lying on the floor next to the naked woman. This is a still life technique.

Manet did not use any gradations from light to dark or vice versa in this painting. He did not give any attention to depth or to perspective when painting ‘Le déjeuner sur l’herbe’.

Important Information

Manet evidently tried to paint something that will create controversy, in an attempt to show that he did not want to conform to conventional subjects. He wanted to use new modes of representation and be free in his artistic expressions. This painting looked rather obscene at the time, and Manet’s style is described as far too bold as a result.

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