Claude Monet painted Dejeuner sur l'herbe in 1866. Monet's ambitious plan to paint a landscape with figures in contemporary dress enjoying a picnic in a beech wood was far too large to be painted outdoors.
He prepared a series of plein air studies to ensure an honest and immediate response to the natural setting and completed the work in his studio. The end result was daring, using the grand scale of history painting to present a scene of modern life bathed in natural light.
No longer content with having to paint on a large canvas indoors, Monet built a complex pulley system to create works en plein air, like the piece on the next page.