Manet’s “The Luncheon on the Grass” and the Rejection of Classicism

Image: Édouard Manet “Luncheon on the Grass” (1863). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Rejected by the Paris Salon of 1863 due to its brazen nudity and controversial subject matter, Édouard Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass” is now considered to be the one of the French artist’s masterpieces and possibly the launching point for all of modern art.


Raphael. “The Judgement of Paris.” 1515. Source: Wikimedia Commons. 

This stark, honest portrayal of a nude prostitute and her clothed male patrons relaxing in a park was a bit much for the Parisian elite of the time. Up until this point, artists had depicted nude women as goddesses. They were often bathed in an ethereal, romantic light. Here, Manet’s muse Victorine-Louise Meurent is a regular woman. He paints her realistically as her stare directly confronts our gaze. She owns her sexually and refuses to play coy.


Titian. “The Pastoral Concert.” 1510. Source: Wikimedia Commons. 

Inspired by Raphael’s 1515 “Judgment of Paris,” here Manet borrows the celebrated Renaissance painter’s poses. This is also not the first time an artist had depicted a nude woman in the company of clothed men. Titian’s “The Pastoral Concert” from 1510 also features a similar scene, but it was Manet’s treatment of this subject matter that caused shock waves.

Manet made no effort to subtly blend the light and dark elements of his canvas. This austere depiction paved the way for Impressionist painters to begin applying unblended paint directly from the tube to the canvas. Unapologetically bold, memorable and progressive, “The Luncheon on the Grass” ranks among the greatest paintings of all time.  


Puchko, Kristy. “15 Things You Might Not Know About Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass.” Mental Floss. 27 May 2017. <>.


“Luncheon on the Grass.” The Musée d’Orsay. 2006. 27 May 2017. <>


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