Good Essay About Manet Question Essay
Edouard Monet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe or “Luncheon on the Grass” is a painting exhibited in 1863 at the Salon Des Refuses or “Salon of the Refused or Rejected Works” because it was not approved for exhibition at the Salon by the official French Academy. The painting shows a nude woman having a picnic with two fully-clothed men. On the background, one can see a woman in a gown who seems to be rinsing her hands in the stream.
This work by Monet is considered as radically different because it departed from the conventions at that time. Nudity is not the reason why it was considered radical because during that era nude paintings were already acceptable. Nude women were depicted as nymphs, usually in mythological settings and not a modern woman without clothes. This painting by Monet however, showed a nude woman in a contemporary setting, that is, in what seems to be a picnic in a park. Another unacceptable feature in Monet’s painting is that the nude woman is looking straight at the viewers. This was considered inappropriate at that time because nude female models usually do not look at the viewers. The reason for this is that they are ashamed because they are nude and they would rather not show their faces. Furthermore, it is unusual to show a nude woman in front of clothed men. The scene would have been acceptable if the woman was a goddess and the other two men, can be portrayed as gods and were not clothed too. The problem stems from the fact that the setting was clearly contemporary because of the clothing worn by the men. Such portrayal is considered immoral because the scene is not a myth and it violates the social norms at that time.
Another major controversy that Monet’s work of art faced was the obvious identity of the three principal figures in the painting. The individuals used by Monet in the painting were very recognizable. The woman is Victorine Meurent, who Monet frequently used in his paintings. The man seated next to the nude woman is Ferdinand Leenhoff, Manet’s brother-in-law. The other man is the younger brother of Manet, Eugene. It was unconventional in paintings at that time to use real individuals. What makes it even worse is that they are depicted in an overt scene.
One other controversial aspect of Monet’s painting is its sense of realism. The viewers closely associate t the setting of the painting with the Bois de Boulogne, which was known as a meeting place for prostitutes. The painting seems to suggest that women, most probably prostitutes, were willing to go naked in public places. The painting was simply offensive to the sense of decency then.
Monet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe is said to have broken formal rules, compositional rules and rules of subject. This work however, no matter how unconventional and controversial it was during the 19th century paved the way for modern art to rise. It somehow laid the foundation of an art that defies rules and pursues freedom of expression. The mode of representation of Monet may be unacceptable for critics and its other viewers but what is essential is the artist was able to empower himself by truly expressing his own kind of art.
Harris, Beth and Steven Zucker. Manet, Le déjeuner sur l'herbe. 2015. Video. 17 April 2015 <https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/avant-garde-france/realism/v/manet-le-d-jeuner-sur-l-herbe-luncheon-on-the-grass-1863>.
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