“The gaze” or “Look” is a technical term originated by film theorists, however, there is a sense of power attributed by it because the gaze of a character or the actor is such that there is an air of superiority about it. According to Jonathan Schroeder (1998), to gaze at someone in any visual art form is not just a look it conveys a psychological relationship where the gazer is dominant while looking at an object. Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, was path-breaking and provocative at the same time because in the painting the naked woman is directly gazing at the viewer. Traditionally women in paintings didn’t look at viewers directly, especially nudes, usually, the female model looked away mostly in portraits too. In this painting, the viewer is confronted by an unflinching gaze of a naked woman. This direct look in Luncheon on the Grass indicates that the woman instead of being an object of dominant male gaze has instead used the female gaze. This gaze is also helped by her sitting position and facial expressions. In my view, the idea of a female looking from a superior vantage point was inconceivable and unacceptable in a patriarchal male-dominated society of that time, this was one of the main reasons why it was rejected and ridiculed at that time. In fact, a closer look shows that the two fully clothed men are not gazing directly, it is only the woman who appears to be the central focus of the painting.
There is an atmosphere of informal familiarity in the work, each individual is sitting in a very relaxed manner, the men, for instance, are reclining casually, while the way the woman is sitting is also quite uninhibited manner, not a way that a lady would sit, especially in nude. She appears to be quite comfortable in the way she is sitting, one leg drawn up and the other relaxed down, her hand holding her chin as she gazes interestedly at the object in front of her.
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