I’m starting off this blog with on of my favorite paintings ever. Yeah, it’s pretty well known and all, but it’s also pretty fuckin’ interesting.
Manet, one of the original Art Historical Badass and arguably the founder of French Impressionism (the only art movement anyone who is not an art history major has any interest in), had just painted The Luncheon in the Grass. This was a depiction of what most historians agree on was the aftermath of a ménage à trois, which is French for dank sex. Needless to say, Paris was shocked, the painting was rejected by the Parisian Salon, and gossiped about by Old French Ladies everywhere.
The woman in this painting is a prostitute, which is kind of immediately obvious to anyone with two eyes and who is over the age of thirteen. The iconography in this painting (like the black cat, a traditional symbol of prostitution) also immediately identify her as such and would have been obvious to most at the time. After Manet painted this little gem, he submitted it to the Paris Salon, the biggest art exhibition of the day. People were pissed. People lined up to see this painting, and throw shit at it. Literally.
Her challenging gaze, the way she firmly covers up her goodies as though she’s protecting them… it all kind of makes the viewer feel dirty, like they’re about to pay for a hooker. This is no picture of a blushing maiden, although it was based off of one. This one was considered a mockery, a giant middle finger to decent society. People reacted as such. That Manet sure did know how to anger the masses.
So next time you’re bored in your required Art History lecture, just know that back in the day, people used to be so into this shit that they threw garbage at it.