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Luncheon on the Grass

Claude Monet • Painting, 1865, 130×181 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Landscape, Genre scene
Style of art: Impressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1865
Size: 130×181 cm
Artwork in collection: My collection, part 2 Tatyana Somova
Artwork in selections: 97 selections
Audio guide

Description of the artwork «Luncheon on the Grass»

In 1865, Claude Monet decided to paint a huge picture - over four by six meters. The figures of people on it had to exceed the average human height in half. In the forest of Fontainebleau, the artist made many sketches, for which he asked his friends to pose, and soon sketched a preliminary version of the painting; and this version is now in front of you.
The picture should be called Luncheon on the grass.

The title of the future work, and its general idea was a tribute to another Luncheon on the grass, Edouard Manet's painting, which two years earlier had been presented at the famous Salon des Refusés (French for "exhibition of rejects") and caused a storm of indignation of critics, salon judges and visitors. At that time Claude Monet, a student of a private studio, was hugely impressed by the painting, and decided now to declare his admiration for Manet and make something just as incredible. He did not intend to disturb the public with naked women, as Manet did, he wanted to paint bright sunspots and contrasting deep shadows on the clothes and faces, the grass and the white veil.

It is difficult to imagine where and how the young artist kept a huge canvas while working on it. But later Monet told in detail how he managed to get to the upper part of the painting, being only 165 centimeters tall. He dug a deep long ditch, lowered the picture into it and found himself at the right level. Monet was obsessed with this work; he even wrote to his friends that he could not think of anything else and would go mad if he failed to finish it. This work took too much effort and, to be honest, was far from being cheap.

Today, recreating the overall view of the finished Luncheon on the Grass is possible only due to this preliminary sketch. The final version did not survive, or rather, survived in a horribly shabby state, as a result of being in several scrapes. Half of his life Monet was in debt - he ran in the middle of the night from a rented apartment, when he could not pay his landlord; for a long time shared a studio with Frédéric Bazille and Auguste Renoir; quarreled with the owners of the hotels and made promises. And once, left without a penny in his pocket, he folded his huge Luncheon on the Grass and left it to the owner of the apartment as collateral. Monet couldn't get money for a long time and returned to reclaim the painting many years later. All that time it lay wrapped in a roll in a damp cellar - and in some places began to rot. The artist had to cut the painting into separate fragments and only three intact panels were kept. But only two of these panels reached the museum walls - today they are kept in the d'Orsay Museum (1,2), each - in a separate frame. The third panel is missing. 

A huge final version of the picture was slightly different from this preliminary, but quite independent and completed version. Monet changed the color of the dress of the girl on the left from white to gray-red and replaced the central figure - a boy who was seated on the tablecloth - for a man. A new character of the Luncheon on the Grass, a cheerful, large bearded man, is very similar to the artist Gustave Courbet.