Edouard Manet: The Luncheon on the Grass

The Luncheon on the Grass - Edouard Manet

The Luncheon in the Grass, with its depiction of a nude female with fully clothed men was a controversial piece when it was displayed at the Salon de Refuses in 1863. It was considered an affront to the times, not only because of the stark nudity of the woman in contrast to the men but also because Manet used familiar models for the figures in the painting. The nude woman is a combination of both his wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, and one of his other female models, Victorine Meurent. The men, on the other hand, are his brother, Eugene Manet, and his brother in law, Ferdinand Leenhoff. It was also considered controversial because it illustrated the rampant prostitution in Paris at the time, which was a taboo subject just to mention, much less display in an oversized canvas.

Edouard MANET was born in a wealthy family of magistrates on his father side and diplomats on his mother side. After having failed the entrance examination to the Naval College, he leaves France towards Rio in 1848 as a cadet on a training ship.

Back in France, his father authorizes him to devote himself to painting, towards which he had felt attracted since his childhood. He compels him to follow a solid formation at the School of Fine Arts in the Workshop of painter Thomas COUTURE, where he was to remain during six long years. Although he had suffered from Couture's method of teaching which required "ideal and impersonality", he will keep for him all his lifetime a certain respect.

"I paint what I see, and not what others like to see" Edouard MANET used to say to oppose to the academic doctrine, intending to assert his own subjectivity and the importance of the vision of the painter compared to the conventional rules.


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