The Gleaners

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The Gleaners
French: Des glaneuses
Jean-François Millet - Gleaners - Google Art Project 2.jpg
Artist Jean-François Millet
Year 1857
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 83.8 cm × 111.8 cm (33 in × 44 in)
Location Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Gleaners (Des glaneuses) is an oil painting by Jean-François Millet completed in 1857. It depicts three peasant women gleaning a field of stray grains of wheat after the harvest. The painting is famous for featuring in a sympathetic way what were then the lowest ranks of rural society; this was received poorly by the French upper classes.

History[edit]

Millet first unveiled The Gleaners at the Salon in 1857. It immediately drew negative criticism from the middle and upper classes, who viewed the topic with suspicion: one art critic, speaking for other Parisians, perceived in it an alarming intimation of "the scaffolds of 1793."[1] Having recently come out of the French Revolution of 1848, these prosperous classes saw the painting as glorifying the lower-class worker.[1] To them, it was a reminder that French society was built upon the labor of the working masses, and landowners linked this working class with the growing movement of Socialism.[2]

One critic commented that "his three gleaners have gigantic pretensions, they pose as the Three Fates of Poverty…their ugliness and their grossness unrelieved."[3] While the act of gleaning was not a new topic—representations of Ruth had existed in art—this new work was a statement on rural poverty and not Biblical piety:[3] there is no touch of the Biblical sense of community and compassion in the contrasting embodiments of grinding poverty in the foreground and the rich harvest in the sunlit distance beyond. The implicit irony was unsettling. After the Salon, Millet, short on money, sold his piece for 3,000 francs—below his asking price of 4,000[4]—after haggling with an Englishman named Binder who would not budge for his meagre counter-offer; Millet tried to keep the miserable price a secret.[5] While The Gleaners garnered little but notoriety during his life, after his death in 1875, public appreciation of his work steadily broadened. In 1889, the painting, then owned by banker Ferdinand Bischoffsheim, sold for 300,000 francs at auction.[4] The following year its owner, Champagne heiress Jeanne-Alexandrine Pommery, died, and following the conditions of her will, the painting was donated to the Louvre.[4] It now resides in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Composition[edit]

What does The Gleaners show? [The women] embody an animal force deeply absorbed by a painstaking task. The contrast between wealth and poverty, power and helplessness, male and female spheres is forcefully rendered.

— Liana Vardi[6]

The Gleaners is an example of Realism. It features three peasant women prominently in the foreground, stooping to glean the last scraps of a wheat harvest. Their gaze does not meet the viewer, and their faces are obscured. In the background, bountiful amounts of wheat are being stacked while a landlord overseer stands watch on the right. Millet has chosen to center the women and paint them with a greater contrast. The earthy figures blend into the color of the piece, ingraining them well into the scene. Through the misalignment of vanishing points among the three women (as drawn along the backs of the women), and in particular never aligning with the central focus of the background, Millet conveys the message that while the lowest-class women occupy the same canvas as the abundance depicted in the background, they will never be a part of that actual physical abundance—they occupy their own space layered on top of another space, in both the painting and in real life. This is a commentary on the lower classes' inaccessibility to upward mobility.

Legacy[edit]

The Gleaners is one of Millet's best known works. Its imagery of bending peasant women gleaning was paraphrased frequently in works by younger artists such as Pissarro, Renoir, Seurat, and van Gogh.[7] Art historian Robert Rosenblum says Millet's painting introduced "imposing new presences in the repertory of mid-century art, with endless progeny in city and country. Daumier's and Degas's laundresses, and even more so Caillebotte's floor-scrapers, are almost unthinkable without Millet's epic hymn to labor."[8]

The painting inspired the name of the Gleaner Manufacturing Company.[citation needed] The painting inspired, and is discussed in, the film by Agnes Varda, The Gleaners and I.

Notes[edit]

External video
Millet's The Gleaners, Smarthistory[9]
  1. ^ a b Kimmelman, Michael (August 27, 1999). "ART REVIEW; Plucking Warmth From Millet's Light". The New York Times (New York City). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  2. ^ Kleiner, Fred; Christian J. Mamiya (2005). Gardner's Art Through the Ages (12 ed.). California: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. p. 857. ISBN 0-534-64091-5. 
  3. ^ a b "Story behind the picture - The Gleaners". University of St. Andrews. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  4. ^ a b c Fratello, Bradley (December 2003). "France embraces Millet: the intertwined fates of The Gleaners and The Angelus". The Art Bulletin (The Art Bulletin, Vol. 85, No. 4) 85 (4): 685–701. doi:10.2307/3177365. JSTOR 3177365. 
  5. ^ Étienne Moreau-Nélaton, Millet racconté par lui-même, (Paris: 1921)
  6. ^ Vardi, Liana (December 1993). "Construing the Harvest: Gleaners, Farmers, and Officials in Early Modern France". The American Historical Review (The American Historical Review, Vol. 98, No. 5) 98 (5): 1424–1447. doi:10.2307/2167061. JSTOR 2167061. 
  7. ^ Pollock, Griselda. Millet. London: Oresko, 1977, p. 48
  8. ^ *Rosenblum, Robert (1989). Paintings in the Musée d'Orsay. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. p. 90
  9. ^ "Millet's The Gleaners". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 

References[edit]

  • Cole, Bruce and Adelheid Gealt. Art of the Western World. Simon & Schuster, 1991
  • Fratello, Bradley (December 2003). "France embraces Millet: the intertwined fates of The Gleaners and The Angelus". The Art Bulletin 85 (4): 685–701. doi:10.2307/3177365.
  • Kimmelman, Michael (August 27, 1999), "Art Review; Plucking Warmth From Millet's Light", The New York Times (New York City), retrieved 2008-01-10
  • Kleiner, Fred; Christian J. Mamiya (2005). Gardner's Art Through the Ages (12 ed.). California: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. p. 857. ISBN 0-534-64091-5.
  • "Story behind the picture - The Gleaners". University of St. Andrews. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  • Moreau-Nélaton, Étienne. Millet racconté par lui-même. Paris, 1921
  • Pollock, Griselda. Millet. London: Oresko, 1977
  • Rosenblum, Robert (1989). Paintings in the Musée d'Orsay. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. ISBN 1-55670-099-7
  • Vardi, Liana (December 1993). "Construing the Harvest: Gleaners, Farmers, and Officials in Early Modern France". The American Historical Review 98 (5): 1424–1447. doi:10.2307/2167061.