5 Controversial Artworks From 19th Century Europe
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5 Controversial Artworks From 19th Century Europe

These paintings shocked European communities by the subtle (and some not-so-subtle) message they sent to the public.

5 Controversial Artworks From 19th Century Europe
Gustave Courbet

Art can engage the mind and provoke the thoughts.

1. "Luncheon on the Grass" by Manet

If one were to examine the painting from today's perspective, there would be no tension between the public and the viewer of the artwork. However, the painting caused tremendous criticism from various artistic institutions when it was first debute in 1863. Manet submitted the piece to be displayed at the Paris Salon for that particular year. What made the painting controversial is the depiction of a nude woman that wasn't referencing a mythological figure. Instead, Monet depicts a normal nude human being interacting with two clothed males having a lunch. Some critics didn't understand the message that Manet tried to convey through the painting while others felt that it was too crass by depicting a non-mythological nude figure.

2. "Venus Victrix" by Antonio Canova

The individual depicted in the sculpture was Pauline Bonaparte, husband of the wealthy Borghese family. What made the sculpture controversial is the exposed breasts which weren't typically seen for individuals of a higher rank in society. Thus, the nudity caused outrage among traditional art critics and embarrassment among the family over the reaction from the work

3. "Impression, Sunrise" by Monet

"Impression, Sunrise" marked the start of a new major art movement based on capturing the fleeting moment known as Impressionism. Critics lambasted Monet for not depicting the landscape with firm lines and comparing the scene as "wallpaper in its embryonic state". The artwork uses broad brushstrokes which allow for he viewer's eye to complete the image and seem as if the painting was created in the moment.

4. "Olympia" by Manet

Manet shocked Parisians again with a nude woman given flowers by a black servant. The main controversy came from the fact that the model used in the painting was supposedly a prostitute. In 1860s Paris, individuals were shocked by the depiction of the woman in such a high manner. Furthermore, the negative gaze by the model makes the viewer seem uncomfortable while examining the painting

5. "A Burial at Ornans" by Courbet

The main controversy behind "A Burial at Ornans" is the size the painting rather than the content. Funerals have been covered before for centuries in many mediums. However, the depiction of a funeral of a local citizen on a very large canvas typically reserved for historical scenes caused much ire among the viewing public.

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