How does Manet subvert the naturalistic painting traditions established in the Renaissance in Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe and Olympia.



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Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe marks an interesting break from classical painting largely due to the way Manet treats his subjects. The women alone are unclothed and one of them looks directly at the viewer in a confrontational manner that suggests she is aware of our presence. The edges of the painting are unfinished, completed in hurried and broad strokes of unmixed color. Proportions don't seem true to life, espcially when comparing the woman bathing in the stream to the boat nearby. She appears to be a giant by comparison! Lastly, the female figure that looks at us is shown in a flat, broad light that indicates to scholars that Manet painted this work in a studio and possibly with the use of photography, which was a new, exciting (and for some artists, very scary) medium. All these things - the unnatural light, unusual proportions, unfinished canvas and shocking subject matter contributed to it's importance as a modern work of art.

Similar to Luncheon on the Grass was Manet's treatment of the reclining female nude in Olympia. She, too, stares at the viewer with an unimpressed expression. It appears to be a challenge to the viewer to examine her while she confronts us with her gaze. Both works were painted in a time of repressed sexuality which is hieghtened by the nudes in each work. It also has allusions to a popular Titian painting of Venus, although Manet has replaced the fidelity-symbolizing dog for a prostitution-symbolizing black cat. 


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