Picasso / Manet: Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

1

2

3

4

1954 : copy/interpretation/variation

Pablo PicassoStudy after Manet’s Lunch on the Grass© Succession Picasso 2008 - RMN-Grand Palais / Béatrice Hatala
First announced in 1932, it would be twenty-four years before the confrontation began. In 1954, Picasso opened a sketchbook and wrote on the cover: "FIRST drawings/of the Déjeuner sur l'Herbe/1954". The artist completed four drawings in it, based on the Lunch on the Grass, three of which are dated 26th June 1954. The fourth is dated the 29th.


The first drawing captures the whole composition of the Lunch on the Grass. Everything is there: the landscape, the still life and of course, the four characters: the swimmer, the man on the left holding out his arm (Manet's brother in law, Ferdinand Leenhoff), the naked woman (Victorine Meurent, the painter's favourite model), and the second man seated behind her (one of Manet's brothers, Eugène or Gustave).
In the second study, dated 26th June, Picasso concentrated on the positioning of the four characters. In the third, he framed the faces of Victorine and Ferdinand.
Finally, in the study of 29th June, there is a faithful, naturalistic and even affectionate return to the four protagonists.


Picasso took over Manet's work, its layout, its protagonists, and their relationship which he had already developed. He copied and interpreted at the same time, immediately moving away from the method he had used to work on Delacroix's Algerian Women in 1954, or on Velasquez's Las Meninas in 1957. After this taster, he modified the composition and took command, a little like Manet himself had done with the two works that inspired him.
The question of copying and borrowing was just as topical for Picasso as for Manet. Picasso continued to explore Manet's painting, in several episodes, right up until August 1959. There was no pain involved with these many compositions: joy, amusement, irony and sometimes showmanship. The painter still needed some time to overcome his Manet "anguish".



1960: subject

During August 1959, Picasso picked up Lunch on the Grass, again, and based six drawings on it.
On 27th February 1960, he produced his first painted version of the Lunch on the Grass. The landscape is lighter, the swimmer at the back insinuates herself between the two men. Victorine Meurent is blown up like a balloon. Her neighbour is slimmer.
Two days and two paintings later, the landscape is reduced to the top of a distant hill with two trees. Ferdinand, the "Conversationalist", as Douglas Cooper baptised him (Picasso. Les Déjeuners, 1962), is still holding forth before a Victorine who has lost her roundness. His neighbour now smokes a pipe.


Pablo PicassoLe déjeuner sur l'herbe after Manet, March 3-August 20, 1960© Succession picasso 2008 - RMN-Grand Palais (Musée Picasso) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
At the beginning of March, Picasso started work on two radically different compositions. The first introduced colour, whereas the second went back to the cloisonné style he had developed at the end of the war. It is a severe painting, in green and black. The characters are isolated, and Picasso closed this first salvo with a completely restructured composition, as if, after having taken the work apart for several weeks, he then gave it back a new and more solid arrangement.


Picasso changed the position of each of the protagonists. Victorine and the "Conversationalist" provide the main structure of the work. The two other, more incidental characters change roles. They recede or come forward, according to the version. Picasso's Victorine is no longer Manet's indecent swimmer. She no longer looks at the viewer, but is in silent conversation with the character opposite her. A new scene is set out, similar to the main theme of Picasso's work in the later years: the dialogue between painter and model, between painter and painting.

1

2

3

4


Enlarge font size Reduce font size Tip a friend Print
Facebook
Google+DailymotionYouTubeTwitter