things worth celebrating: birthdays and art jokes

[this blog post will be best paired with edith piaf’s “non, je ne regrette rien”]

happy birthday, claude.


here’s to the founder of french impressionism and one of the most popular artists of all time. monet is best known for his development of light and shadow, emphasizing the passing of time and the changing of seasons. monet led the impressionist movement–named after his work, impression, sunrise–through painting perceptions in nature and practicing the immediacy of a moment.

claude monet, impression, sunrise, 1872

that’s all great and important for the development of art history–however, monet is not one of my favorite artists. mainly because i don’t like looking at landscapes for too long. i enjoy his waterlilies well enough, but my favorite piece is his version of luncheon on the grass, because it adds to a larger art historical conversation. monet’s version was created as a tribute and response to manet’s original. one of my favorite things about art history is the mentoring and lineage created around a shared skill–and the inside jokes that come with that.

claude monet, luncheon on the grass, 1865-66



edouard manet, luncheon on the grass, 1863

manet’s luncheon on the grass is one of my favorite artworks–it is the painting that led to me love art history. rejected by the salon, and exhibited the salon des refusés, manet scandalized the public with a nude woman at the center of the artwork. it wasn’t simply her nudity that infuriated that public–it was her attitude. she should have been ashamed or blushing while trying to conceal herself. instead, she meets the eyes of the viewer devoid of shame, teasing, or flirtatiousness. she seems to say, “yes, I am naked. what’s it to you?” furthermore, she was not a goddess and she was not an idealized beauty–she’s no venus.

while manet’s luncheon on the grass did cause outrage, it has also inspired–and continues to inspire–many artists to reference his work. manet’s original piece was also created to reference a masters before him–it is the lineage created through references that continues to fascinate and entertain me. the three figures in the foreground of the painting are a allude to the judgement of paris. in the lower right corner of the classical engraving, there are two river gods seated with a classical nude in the same composition as the three in manet’s painting. manet also borrows the subject from titian’s pastoral concert.

marcantonio raimondi after raphael, the judgement of paris, 1510/20



the judgement of paris detail
titian, pastoral concert, 1508-10

luncheon on the grass continues to inspire professional and amateur artists alike:


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