Luncheon in the Studio

Edouard Manet • Painting, 1868, 118×153 cm
$54.00
Digital copy: 1.1 MB
3333 × 2503 px • JPEG
45.8 × 35.3 cm • 180 dpi
56.4 × 42.4 cm • 150 dpi
28.2 × 21.2 cm • 300 dpi
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Style of art: Impressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1868
Size: 118×153 cm
Artwork in selections: 45 selections
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Description of the artwork «Luncheon in the Studio»


The Luncheon in the Studio painting was presented at the Paris Salon in 1869 along with The Balcony. By that time, Manet had already firmly established the reputation of an upstart who was trying to attract public attention at any cost. And this time he did not leave critics without work. Jules-Antoine Castagnary was indignant: “In the Luncheon, for example, I see a half-peeled lemon and oysters on the table set for coffee, which are hardly compatible. Why are they there? I know why. Because Manet has a weakness for colour spots, because he copes excellently with painting still lifes and is inclined to paint them wherever possible. Just as Manet unites still life objects solely for the sake of visual pleasure, he also haphazardly arranges his figures...” Another critic honestly tried to satisfy his professional inclination towards genre identification and fit both paintings into the painting tradition. Surely, he had a system failure and no choice but to make a witty joke: “Manet created a portrait of a balcony and a portrait of luncheon.”

Manet was the first to paint in this manner. A still life is just a lemon and a vase, a portrait is a person looking directly at the viewer, a genre scene is people who do something comprehensible together and give the viewer the opportunity to determine what is happening there at all. Manet does not give anything comprehensible, except that the yellow colour of the lemon peel masterly supports the yellow colour of the straw hat of the central figure.

The painting was painted in Boulogne-sur-Mer, on the banks of the English Channel, where Manet rented a house for a family summer vacation. And for the main subject of the Luncheon, Léon Leenhoff posed for him, a boy who was Manet’s either son or brother, and who has kept art critics awake for over a hundred years. They say that Manet was not as simple as it seemed. It was assumed that the two figures in the background are Manet himself and his wife Suzanne, and this family scene allegedly reveals the secret of Léon’s birth. Then it was discovered that the woman was actually a servant, and the smoking man, whose figure was defiantly cropped à la Japanese engraving, was a friend of the artist.

Concerning this painting, art critic Ilya Doronchenkov speaks of Manet as a “brilliant optical apparatus” and rejects all attempts to see the secret signs of family mysteries in it: “In the Luncheon in the Studio painting, there is a combination of red wine, coffee, oysters and lemon, absolutely unimaginable for a Frenchman of his social level. The simplest answer is that Manet is primarily a painter. He is primarily interested in the combination of colours and textures, and the logical connection of objects and people is the last thing.”

Henri Matisse only once saw the Luncheon in the Studio painting, in the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, and wrote about it 35 years later. And Matisse was also primarily interested in colours.

Written by Anna Sidelnikova
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