Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe is a painting by Eduard Manet that directly challenges the “acceptable” representation of the woman at that time, donating power to the female figure of the painting which, ultimately, becomes the subject matter of the composition. The painting, originally titled Le Bain (The Bath), is a large oil canvas created in the 1860s which is now found in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It was submitted in 1863 at what became the Salon des Refusés.
The painting represents three main figures in the foreground, of which two are men dressed in contemporary clothing and the women is portrayed naked. The eye of the viewer is drawn to the nude which becomes the subject matter of the painting. She is painted using a light color which naturally draws the eye to her figure as well as the attitude of nonchalance which surprizes the viewer in its simplicity.
Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, inspired various other painters at various timeframes and artistic movements. The first to include his own version of this painting in his collection is Monet in 1865. Further on, “Picasso’s works after Manet’s painting started with a series of colored drawings starting in 1959 until 1962” (Tate Gallery site). “His interest in Manet’s painting derive from as an expression of the artist’s sympathetic relationship with politics of youth and sexual liberation. The idea of young students and naked women picnicking in the woods near Paris reflected the sexual revolutions of the emerging counterculture of the 1960s” (Musée d’Orsay site). Picasso, when observing the painting saw that it coincided with the feminist movement and sexual liberation originated in the 1960s. In fact, one can easily interpret this piece as breaking through the standard idealization of women and effectively using art as a political statement.
Manet through his painting Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, is able to represent the female figure as a powerful subject which has the role of attracting the viewer to the canvas and engage them directly with the painting. Manet dares to breakthrough the traditional representation of women by attributing sexual features without rendering her vulgar in any way. Her bold and seducing gaze, inspire confidence, which link to a positive connotation of female representation in the feminist perspective. He gives power to the female figure also through the use of light color which contrast her body with the dark background, and the enormity of the canvas. Her realist depiction of the body transpires security in the female figure which does not want to hide behind an idealist portrayal of women.
Kenneth, Clark. “Tate Britain| Past Exhibitions | Manet and His Circle: Paintings from the Louvre.” Tate: British and International Modern and Contemporary Art. Tate Gallery, 2004. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. .
Musee’ D’Orsay. “Musée D’Orsay: Edouard Manet Luncheon on the Grass.” Musée D’Orsay: Accueil. 2006. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. .