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Video transcript

[Music] we're in the Musee d'Orsay looking at dejeuner so they're lunching on the grass by men a although it didn't originally have that title its first title was the bass and there is really neither bathing nor illusion going on there is a woman in the distance in the water there is some fruit and a brioche a roll in the foreground so perhaps a remnant of a lunch but that's not what this painting is about but it's very difficult to determine precisely what this painting is about and I think that's part of the point the painting was exhibited not at the official salon sanctioned by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts the authority for art instead this was exhibited at the salon des refuse a salons refused a was set up by Emperor Napoleon the third because so many works of art had been excluded from the official salon but even though this painting was in the exhibition of rejected artwork it still caused a storm of controversy based both on what was being portrayed but also its painting technique how it was portrayed these figures are clearly modern Parisian figures and that's the problem they're not set far away and ancient Greek and Roman mythology or set back in time these are figures clearly wearing fashionable Parisian clothing except of course the nude woman which is the other part of the problem by placing a woman who is nude in this context and because she's not veiled with distanced by mythology she's not an inch in a classical Grove she is actually a recognizable figure this is nanny's model of victory and moral and because the two men are also recognizable figures there is an immediacy here they create a degree of discomfort for the viewer these figures don't look idealized they don't look timeless they look like actual people you would see on the streets of Paris the other significant problem with these three figures is that no one seems to be truly interacting the nude female figure looks directly out at us in a gaze that is very nonchalant and yet very direct which is also breaking with tradition in the rare instances where a nude female figure look out toward the audience it might be with a coil look but here there is a figure that's returning the viewers gaze and then we have the two male figures the figure on the right gestures toward the figure in the center but the figure in the center seems to gaze absently out of the painting and doesn't seem to return the figure on the right gesture and conversation and then we have this odd figure in the background who's spatially too large for where she should be in the middle ground there are all kinds of spatial problems here that man a has built in these are not happenstance these are purposeful for example the Mormon in the background seems to reach down to scoop something out of the water but in fact she seems to be reaching down to the thumb of the man in the foreground collapsing the last traces of the illusion of death we also have figures who are rendered very flatly so for example the new female figure is not modeled with that lovely movement from light to dark that would give her a sense of three dimensionality that was typical of representations of the female nude historically critics noted that she seemed to have a concealed lighting about her instead of the natural outdoor light of where she's located there is some minor modeling around the breasts under the thigh but for the most part she looks like she's a flat cut out and even lose shadows are very dark there's almost a sense of her being outlined in dark grays and blacks instead of a lovely soft modeling overall the handling of paint whether we're looking at the grass in the foreground or the meadow in the distance it's incredibly really brushed there's no sense of finish and for paintings that were approved by the jury for the Royal Academy having a painting that was really worked on where there was no sense left of the hand of the artist that was the priority and many is just flagrantly disregarding that we also have a figure who seems naked and not viewed and that's because we have her discarded clothing including her hat in the foreground and the fact that she's wearing a kind of ribbon so if we feel as though she's a modern Parisian woman who has discarded her clothing and not Venus born nude naturally from the sea she's not an allegorical figure she's not a mythological figure she's somebody who has taken off her dress my name is very consciously drawing on the tradition of art history here he understood traditional art he had copied paintings at the Louvre and so this painting is based directly on at least two sources a painting that was thought to be by Georg on a now understood to be by Titian in the Louvre which similarly shows two closed male figures and two nude female figures in a beautiful landscape but déjeuner sur l'herbe is also inspired by a work by raphael that many had seen through an engraved copy showing the judgment of Paris and in the lower right corner of that engraving were two River God's and onions and it was that composition that many has borrowed so we can easily understand the reactions of the French public in 1863 when they went to the Salon des refuse it in fact many was cultivating their confusion this refusal to tell a story is a refusal to do precisely what the Academy and especially the art going public wanted from a painting many is accusing his viewers he's giving all of the indications that there's a narrative and yet not including that narrative and so the subject is then no longer what is being enacted but rather the act of creating a work of art itself the choices that he's making as an artist to his brushwork to his composition he is making a challenge to the authorities the controlled art in France and making a strong declaration I am the one who makes these decisions for my art and that forceful declaration will have a tremendous impact on the development of modernism in the late 19th century and into the 20th century you [Music]