From Realism to Modernism

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From Realism to Modernism

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe Edouard Manet, 1863.

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe ("The Luncheon on the Grass"), originally titled Le Bain ("The Bath"), is an oil on canvas painting by Edouard Manet. It was painted between the years 1862 and 1863 and measures 208 by 264.5 cm. The juxtaposition of a female nude with fully dressed men sparked controversy when the work was first exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. The work is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

In the foreground, three characters are seated on the grass: a naked woman and two men dressed like dandies. The woman, whose body is starkly lit, looks frankly in the direction of the viewer. The man on the right is wearing a flat hat with a tassel. The men seem to be engaged in conversation and totally ignore the woman. In front of them, the clothes of the woman, a basket of fruit and a round loaf of bread are displayed as in a still life.

In the background, we see another woman, draped in an almost transparent cloth, bathing in a small pond. She is too large in comparison with the figures in the foreground and seems to float. The backdrop is painted roughly and lacks depth: one gets the impression that the scene doesn't take place outside, but in a photographer's studio. This impression is reinforced by the use of broad "photographic" light, which casts almost no shadows: in fact, the lighting of the scene is inconsistent and unnatural. One can also note that the sort of hat the man is wearing was normally only for indoor use.

Realism is commonly defined as a concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary. However, the term realism is used, with varying...