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The painting helped to spark Impressionism because it turned away from realism and painted the thoughts of the artist. The painting features two men fully clothed having a picnic with a naked woman. The picture caused a huge controversy. It was the first time that a naked woman was shown with clothed men. While the content of the painting was unusual, so was its style. The lighting in the painting was unnatural and the figure in the background, another naked woman, is way too large for the figures in front. This lack of realistic perspective as well as the controversial topic and the large size of the painting all made a distinct break from the salon style of realistic paintings.
This painting helped to launch Impressionism for a number of reasons. Like Impressionism, the subject was of a moment in time, a genre painting. It captured ordinary people sitting in a park eating lunch, rather than the typical Historical, Royal, Religious or Miltitary subject matter of the time. The painting style is flat, with little modelling of the figures. It was controversial for its placement of the nude woman, who boldly looks out directly at the viewer as if to challenge them to enter the scene. It is the artist, perhaps challenging the established salon of the day to accept or reject this work. Manet is metaphorically slapping the face of the established salon, which was what the Impressionists did in order to establish a new kind of painting outside of the accepted order.
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