The revolution in a picnic
Can a single painting bring about an epochal change in art? Edouard Manet in 1863 proved yes (partly in spite of himself).
The meek Edouard did not want to be an art "bomber". Son of a strict official of the Ministry of Justice who wanted him to be a magistrate, he had already had to fight, and not a little, to be able to devote himself to his passion: painting.
Once a painter, he found himself having to fight to affirm "his" painting, which he felt so anachronistic compared to the iron dictates of the academy.
Let's go back to our painting: "Le dejeuner sur l'herbe". If Manet didn't want to provoke, why did he paint a naked woman with two dressed men?
The idea was to be current, to paint figures and ways of his time, ennobling them with a tribute to the classics.
In "The Judgment of Paris" by Raphael and even more "The country concert" by Titian (his favorite painter) there are men dressed and a naked woman. But if you take away from this image the justification of the mythological tale, which Manet considered hypocritical, scandal breaks out.
The woman in this painting is not a nymph or a mythological goddess: she is a Parisian woman of her time. Open up heaven !. In an instant, in Paris, only Manet and his shameful provocation were spoken of. Even those who did not particularly love art flocked to the Salòn to see "the picture of the scandal".
As if that weren't enough, Manet also used a new technique: abolition of perspective, no chiaroscuro, use of strong colors, autonomy of color.
So Manet, who wanted to represent reality in a sincere and modern way, found himself accused of having purposely painted a prostitute with two perverted students to make people talk about himself.
But history had chosen. Manet, anything but an Impressionist, opened the door to Monet (with the o) and to all the Impressionists.
He freed art from historical and mythological paintings. He pushed painters to paint "outside" their studios, on the street, where life flows. He freed painters from the strict bonds of the academy.
In a nutshell: he started modern art.