Luncheon in the Grass

In 1863 French painter Edouard Manet created a contentious masterpiece The Luncheon on the Grass, which featured two dressed men casually lunching with a nude woman, while another partially nude woman bathed in the background. The work is considered a statement on both the artist’s individual freedom and on the rampant prostitution that existed in Paris during that time. The work also was extremely controversial since paintings with such subject matter were considered taboo.


File:Édouard Manet - Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe.jpg

In 2002, American artist Shag recreated Manet’s controversial painting. Like other Shag takes on classic masterpieces, this one is easily identifiable. However, Shag brings some unusual symbolic twists and puts the scene in an urban city park setting. In Shag’s Luncheon in the Grass, the similarities to Manet’s original are unmistakable – a nude woman staring directly at the viewer, joined by two male figures to her right, and a picnic basket to her left, with a woman partially dressed bathing in the background. The landscape is laid out nearly the same, but of course, done in classic Shag style, with crisp, simple shaped shrubs, bushes and trees. Shag’s technique of painting vegetation is unique and he’s made the style his own. Luncheon in the Grass is one of his first works where this style really defines and makes up the painting’s overall character. This style was first found in Melancholy Wolfman from The Coolest Ghouls, and since has been used in many more modern-day Shag paintings, like The Tree Feller, The Rule Breaker and 2004’s The Landlord Meets the Serpent. The most unique twist in Shag’s version are the two fauns that replace the men from Manet’s original. In Roman mythology, fauns are half man and half goat spirits from the untamed woodlands and are perceived as orgiastic drunkards. Leave it to Shag to put an element of symbolism and surprise within his own work. And holding true to Shag’s signature style, his painting is vibrantly colored, utilizing a pleasing mix of bold purples and greens, in sharp contrast to Manet’s darker and more naturally colored painting.

Shag’s Luncheon in the Grass was one of 18 paintings from the People in the City exhibit held in New York, where each work featured people and various Shag characters in different scenarios throughout different cityscapes. Shag released a limited edition serigraph of Luncheon in the Grass, which has long since sold out and is only available from private collectors and select galleries. Other paintings of interest from People in the City include The Scene of the Crime and The Masquerade.


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