Manet's Luncheon on the Grass


Manet became known as one of the most prominent artists of Modernism and is remembered as being part of the Realism art followed by Impressionism.

artwork in context

Manet’s famous scene of a nude female picnicking with two males has become an icon of painting beyond the established rules of painting.

historical overview

When Manet sought to exhibit Luncheon on the Grass at the Salon in 1863, it was rejected. Subsequently, it was exhibited at the Salon des Refusés, which means “Exhibition of Rejects”.

rejecting the status quo

As much as the Parisian art institutions rejected Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, he similarly rejected the status quo of what was acceptable to paint and the rules to adhere by. This is what made Manet’s painting appear so risqué.

subject matter

In the near foreground towards the left corner, there is a bundle of clothing appearing to have been discarded in a quick moment, including a basket lying on its side with various fruits and a loaf of bread.

subject matter

As we move towards the middle foreground, there are three reclining figures on the grassy area, namely, a naked woman to the left, who appears to be sitting on a blue blanket, and two clothed men.

subject matter

There is a woman bathing in a stream or river, wearing a diaphanous chemise gown. She is bending over with her right hand in the water and her head is slightly tilted to her right side. 


Examples that suggest how Manet could have brought the inside world out include the skin tone of the naked woman, suggesting a sort of harsh lighting on her as would be expected in a studio with lights shining on the model.


Manet used stark grays and blacks to indicate the gradations of skin tone and where the shadows fell on it. We see this “stark” tonality on Manet’s female figure in his painting Olympia (1863).


There appears to be no sense of depth or space between the three central figures, and the woman in the background is depicted on almost a similar scale as the foreground figures.

meaning of the artwork

Manet upended the ideas of how women were portrayed too, including his painting Olympia (1863), he depicted women with a sense of confidence and self-assurance.

what people said

When Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe was first exhibited in Paris it was viewed as scandalous and people were shocked and bewildered at the subject matter that was so different from what was expected.