Believe it or not, there is a connection between this post and the last one about Mount Ngauruhoe and Tama Lakes. Let me explain.
Even today, Manet’s “Déjeuner sur L’Herbe” it is not what one would call a ‘comfortable’ painting, and maybe it was this element of unease that moved me a few years ago to create a modern version, setting the characters in a landscape of the future, when our pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and climate change have finally completed their deadly work.
The intervening years haven’t altered my perspective on this small painting, and I hope it conveys to others what it spoke to me as I created it.
Manet’s “Déjeuner” caused a sensation when it was exhibited. The painting was rejected by the Salon in 1863 so in the same year, Manet took the opportunity to exhibit it in the Salon des Refusés. Even in that venue, it caused an uproar, mainly from the fact of two women – one scantily-clad and the other naked – dining out in the woods with two fully-clad males. As I said above, the painting is still a little unnerving, even 150 years later, when we are much more ‘enlightened’.
The subject of this post is only a small sketch – about 7″x5.5″ – done at a time when I lived in Wellington and our Central North Island Plateau was very much a reality to me. So I placed the scene in that location, What made the fit for me was the desert quality, and the power pylons and lines.
Our State Highway No 1, which runs the full length of both islands, passes along the eastern edge of the Central Volcanic region. This is the Rangipo Desert. Between the road and the mountains runs the main power trunk line – carried on pylons which can be a pain when taking photographs. On this stretch, the road has a special name – ‘The Desert Road’. It’s very hot in summer and in winter it can often be closed altogether due to hazardous snow and ice conditions.
Bear in mind that when this painting was done, there was much less appreciation of the environmental impacts of many things that were used thoughtlessly. We are a little more aware today – though maybe too little too late.
So there we are at ‘déjeuner’: taking our leisure. Three of the little group of characters are still there – still lingering over luncheon and apparently oblivious to the gradual change that has taken place around them. Still socializing, in spite of the circumstances.
There is no grass underfoot. There are no shady trees left in the park, only the march of power pylons. There’s no longer any need for shady trees, because the sun’s rays are taken care of by the clouds of pollution overhead.
Party on …