"Déjeuner sur L’Herbe" by Monet (NOT Manet)

I’m preparing a lecture on the Impressionists, and I’ve been completely distracted by Monet’s Déjeuner sur L’Herbe (“Luncheon on the Grass”). Yes – that’s not a typo. I meant to write “Monet,” not “Manet.”

Maybe you’re saying “What?” just like I did fifteen minutes ago. Don’t get too bewildered: Manet DID a very seminal painting that is called Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe (1863). And Manet’s painting is infinitely more well-known than Monet’s early work with the same title. But allow me to bring Monet’s painting out of obscurity:

Monet, Le Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe, 1865-66

It’s interesting to see a painting by Monet that includes human figures. (You can see a figure study for this painting here.) I’m so used to seeing Monet paintings with haystacks and Rouen Cathedrals and water lilies and train stations – it’s so nice to see something different. You also might have noticed that this painting was made just about two years after Manet completed his painting with the same title. A coincidence? Definitely not. There’s no question that Monet was influenced by Manet.

Other painters were also influenced by Manet’s 1863 painting. Cezanne did his own picnicking painting with the same title, and Picasso did several versions that were directly inspired by Manet. In fact, the Musee d’Orsay did an exhibition (which ended in February 2009) that revolved around Picasso’s variations of Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe. Here’s one Picasso example:

Picasso, Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe after Manet, 27 February 1960

So, what do you think? Did you know that Monet painted a Déjeuner sur L’Herbe? (I really hope that I’m not the only one who was unaware of that fact.) Which version of the subject matter do you like the best?

  • heidenkind says:

    I did know. But I took an entire seminar in Impressionism, so I officially know more about them than I ever wanted to. ;) But if it makes you feel any better, I didn't know either Cezanne or Picasso painted their own Dejeuner sur l'herbes.

    To tell the truth, I am not a fan of Monet. On the other hand, I would totally marry Manet if were still alive, I love him sooooo much. So I vote for Manet's version. :D

  • M says:

    Yeah, to be honest, Monet isn't my favorite painter either. I think my indifference is partially because his stuff is so commercialized; his paintings adorn every kitsch item that is sold in museum gift shops. Blech.

    I'm with you, heidenkind – I would pick Manet over Monet any day. (That being said, though, I definitely prefer Monet over Renoir. I think a lot of Renoir's stuff is absolutely hideous!)

  • Hels says:

    Manet's dejeuner makes me very uncomfortable. His men are serious, well dressed, thoughtful, engaged in conversation, admiring the scenery. The woman looks like a total moron, sitting naked in a public place (although it refers back to an Italian source). She is totally out of context.

    Monet's men and women are all participating equally in his picnic. Thank goodness.

  • M says:

    Ha ha! You're right, Hels. When it comes to equality of the sexes, Monet's painting definitely wins. :)

  • heidenkind says:

    Aw, poor Renoir. My Impressionism prof hated him, too. Actually I really love Renoir. But if you think his stuff is hideous, what do you think of Giorgio de Chirico trying to copy his style? Now that is wtf bad.

  • M says:

    Seriously. Giorgio de Chirico is outta-control-bad. I think Renoir is bad enough – no one should be copying his style.

  • e says:

    This post is outside of my realm, so I don't wan to say something and sound stupid, but I will say this. I do not like that Picasso. At all. That is definitely the style Picasso that doesn't appeal to me. I've seen a few things of his I like but that definitely isn't one of them. Though, in all fairness, I think the colors are really interesting.

  • obridge says:

    This made me think of a funny passage from George Moore's "Hail and Farewell!" (his memoirs of 1914) about the Manet and Monet confusion, where he has fun with the similarities between their names and styles of painting:

    "He [Monet] began be imitating Manet, and Manet ended by imitating Monet. They were great friends. Manet painted Monet and Madame Monet in their garden, and Monet painted Manet and Madame Manet in the same garden; they exchanged pictures, but after a quarrel each returned the other his picture." [try saying this out loud quickly!]

    It's hard to know where to begin unpacking the differences between the two artist's dejeuners. Apart from Monet's greater commitment to plein-air painting, his work also seems to owe a lot more to Rococo traditions (fete galantes, picnicking scenes, etc.).

  • M says:

    Thanks for posting the Moore quote, obridge! I remember reading something similar about the Monet/Manet confusion, but I don't know if I've seen that specific quote before. It's fun.

    I like that you compared Monet's work to the Rococo tradition. I'd never thought about his work in that historical sense, but now I wonder why I never made that connection before. Like you mentioned, the fete galante/outdoor/picnicking scenes are a great link between Rococo and Impressionism. Now I'm starting to think of comparisons between the pleasure-seeking 19th century bourgeoisie and the 18th century French aristocracy…

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.