“The Dejeuner sur l'herbe is Manet's greatest painting, the one in which he has realized the dream of every painter: to paint life-sized figures in a landscape. The public was scandalized by this nude, which was all it saw in the painting. "Good heavens! How indecent! A woman without a stitch on alongside two clothed men." Such a thing had never been seen before! But that was a gross mistake, for in the Louvre there are more than fifty canvases in which both clothed and nude figures occur. But no one goes to the Louvre to be shocked, and besides, the public took good care not to judge the Dejeuner sur l' herbe as a real work of art should be judged. It saw there only some people who were lunching out of doors after a swim, and it believed that the artist had been intentionally obscene and vulgar in composing such a subject, when he had simply tried to obtain vivid contrasts and free disposition of masses. Painters, especially Manet who is an analytical painter, do not share this preoccupation with subject matter which frets the public above everything else; for them the subject is only a pretext for painting, but for the public it is all there is. So, undoubtedly, the nude woman in the Dejeuner sur l' herbe is only there to provide the artist with an opportunity to paint a bit of flesh. What should be noticed in this painting is not the picnic but the landscape as a whole, its strength and delicacy, the broad, solid foreground and the light, delicate distance, the firm flesh modeled in large areas of light, the supple and strong materials, and especially the delightful silhouette of the woman in her chemise in the background, a charming white spot in the midst of the green leaves. Finally, the whole effect, full of atmosphere, this fragment of nature treated with a simplicity so exactly right, is all an admirable page upon which an artist has put the elements unique and peculiar to him."

From “Edouard Manet, A Biographical and Critical Study”

By his biggest fan and good friend, Emile Zola, 1867