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Old Harvester's Meal (La soupe du vieux faucheur)

Léon-Augustin Lhermitte

European Art

Léon-Augustin Lhermitte specialized in scenes of rustic life and work like this one, in which a woman framed against the sky delivers a meal to a young man resting and an older man in the foreground repairing or adjusting his harvesting tool. Lhermitte’s models were rural laborers from the region around his native village in the Picardy region of France. He depicted them as calm, dignified figures, absorbed in their activities and seemingly at one with the landscape. Note, for example, the tonal and gestural similarity between the pastel marks describing the legs of the older man and those for the surrounding vegetation, a free handling that reflects the influence of Impressionism. Such imagery presented an idyllic, heroized view of rural labor, ignoring the real hardships faced by the lower classes and the great changes being wrought by industrialization and urbanization. This timeless, peaceful representation was precisely what made Lhermitte’s images so appealing to middle-class audiences, who saw them as nostalgic visions of a simpler, preindustrial world in harmony with nature.

Vincent van Gogh was also greatly impressed by “the truth of the work and of the peasant figure” in Lhermitte, praising him as an artist who “takes his subjects from the heart of the people.”
MEDIUM Pastel on brown wove paper mounted to canvas
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES January 1886
    DIMENSIONS 29 1/2 x 35in. (74.9 x 88.9cm) frame: 46 7/8 × 40 1/2 × 4 5/8 in. (119.1 × 102.9 × 11.7 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed lower right: "L. Lhermitte"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Bequest of Henry W. Maxwell
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Léon-Augustin Lhermitte (French, 1844–1925). Old Harvester's Meal (La soupe du vieux faucheur), January 1886. Pastel on brown wove paper mounted to canvas, 29 1/2 x 35in. (74.9 x 88.9cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Henry W. Maxwell, 03.326 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 03.326.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 03.326.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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