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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Manet, Edouard


The Luncheon on the Grass (Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe)
1863
oil on canvas
208 × 265.5 cm
Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France

In 1863, Manet shocked the French public by exhibiting this painting. Le dejeuner sur l'herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) - originally titled Le Bain (The Bath) - is not a realist painting in the social, but it is a statement in favor of the artist's individual freedom. The shock value of a nude woman casually lunching with two fully dressed men, which was an affront to the propriety of the time, was accentuated by the familiarity of the figures. Manet's wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, and his favorite model, Victorine Meurent, both posed for the nude woman. The two men are Manet's brother, Gustave Manet and his future brother-in-law, Ferdinand Leenhoff. Rejected by the Salon jury of 1863, Manet seized the opportunity to exhibit this painting in the 1863 Salon des Refuses where the painting sparked public notoriety and controversy.

Despite the mundane subject, Manet deliberately chose a large canvas size, normally reserved for historical subjects. The style of the painting breaks with the academic traditions of the time. He did not try to hide the brush strokes; the painting, indeed, looks unfinished in some parts of the scene.

"There are no lines in nature, only areas of color, one against another." "When you've got it, you've got it. When you haven't, you begin again. All the rest is humbug." (Manet)

Edouard Manet (1832-1883) was a French painter. One of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from the realism of Gustave Courbet to Impressionism. His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art.

His mother was a woman of refinement and god daughter of Charles Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden. His father was a magistrate and judge who hoped that Manet would someday follow in his footsteps, but Manet was destined to follow another path. Born into the ranks of the Parisian bourgeoisie with strong political connections, Manet rejected the future originally envisioned for him, and became engrossed in the world of painting. The last 20 years of Manet's life saw him form bonds with other great artists of the time, and develop his own style that would be heralded as innovative and serve as a major influence for future painters. Manet broke new ground in choosing subjects from the events and appearances of his own time and in stressing the definition of painting as the arrangement of paint areas on a canvas over and above its function as representation.

Although Manet was frequently in the company of members of the Impressionist group - Berthe Morisot, his sister-in-law since December 1874, Degas, and Monet in particular, and they regarded him as a leader, he had no wish to join their group. He was naturally irritated by the critics’ tendency to confuse him with Monet. Manet’s stylistic discoveries, such as "there are no lines in nature", which led to his abandoning of the conventional outline and his shaping the forms by means of color and subtle gradation of tints, decisively influenced the Impressionists, but their representation of light and optical reactions to color were different. Manet never painted what could be called a truly Impressionist picture.
During the Franco-Prussian War he joined National Guard. In 1881 he was received into the Legion of Honor. After a long illness, which had been exhausting him for about 5 years, he died on April 30, 1883.
"You would hardly believe how difficult it is to place a figure alone on a canvas, and to concentrate all the interest on this single and universal figure and still keep it living and real." (Manet)