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Mower Sharpening his Scythe (Faucheur aiguisant sa faux)

Jules Bastien-Lepage

Artwork Details

Mower Sharpening his Scythe (Faucheur aiguisant sa faux)
1878
Jules Bastien-Lepage
etching and drypoint on paper
7 7/8 in. x 10 3/8 in. ( 20 cm x 26.4 cm )
Gift of Prof. and Mrs. Alfred H. White
1940.136

On Display

Not currently on display

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Description

Two years before executing this print, Bastien-Lepage, who had already achieved official success in the Paris Salon, decided to stop submitting entries for the academic Prix de Rome, a prize which eluded him. Instead he devoted himself to the depiction of his own "coin de terre," or "neck of the woods" by focusing on Damvillers, his native village in Lorraine. "I mean, first of all, to paint the peasants and landscapes of my home as they really are." His genre scenes of rural workers are indebted to Millet, whose prints he had collected as a student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Like this predecessor in capturing timeless poses, and evoking ancient traditions of representing work, such as the Labors of the Months, Bastien-Lepage nevertheless omitted Millet's emphasis on dirty, brutal toil. The son of a farmer, Bastien-Lepage knew well the life of the rural worker first-hand, which lends authenticity to his depictions. Nevertheless, his images avoid the bleakness of those by Millet. The emphasis in this print of a reaper sharpening his scythe is on a momentary pause in labor and on the bounty of the harvest, accentuated by the high horizon line, which engulfs the large figure of the peasant.

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