In the early 1800’s, paintings depicting themes from classical history and mythology had pretty much run their course. Artists were looking for new subjects, something different through which to distinguish themselves; for many the humble peasant became their new muse. (Click images to enlarge)

Leopold Robert - "Return from the Pilgrimage to the Madona dell' Arco" - 55" x 83" - Oil  (1827)

Leopold Robert – “Return from the Pilgrimage to the Madonna dell’ Arco” – 55″ x 83″ – Oil   (1827)

 

Amidst all the history paintings, historical landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, this new genre stood apart from the others and satisfied the changing tastes of the European culture at the turn of the century.

Jean-Francois Millet - "Harvesters Resting" - 27" x 47" - Oil  (1853)

Jean-Francois Millet – “Harvesters Resting” – 27″ x 47″ – Oil   (1853)

 

One might ask, “What is a peasant?” People of that time seem to have had a variety of opinions…1) They were subjects/servants of the aristocracy. 2) They were a primitive people. 3) They were country folk, producing their own food and making what they lived in and wore…basically self-sufficient. Some writers of the day portrayed them as “oxen without horns”…treated as an animal, a human beast.

Less specifically, the term “peasant” used loosely came to mean rural laborers…those that lived in the country and worked the land for their livelihood.

Jules Breton (1827-1906) - "Calling in the Gleaners" - 35" x 46" - Oil  (1859)

Jules Breton (1827-1906) – “Calling in the Gleaners” – 35″ x 46″ – Oil  (1859)

Julien Dupre (1851-1910) - "The Harvesters" - 15" x 18" - Oil  (1889)

Julien Dupre (1851-1910) – “The Harvesters” – 15″ x 18″ – Oil   (1889)

Charles Sprague :Pearce (1851-1914) - "Gleaner's Rest" - 30" x 24" - Oil  (1885-90)

Charles Sprague Pearce (1851-1914) – “Gleaner’s Rest” – 30″ x 24″ – Oil   (1885-90)

 

The earliest peasantry paintings, however, were strongly influenced by the Classical and Renaissance styles, resulting in idealized beauty of form and lifestyle. The reality, however, was much different as peasants were generally a weathered, diseased, beaten down, impoverished lot. Despite this, many city dwellers were fascinated by them and preferred to think of them as free from many of life’s stresses, a jovial bunch working together in the fields as a family and enjoying their time together as they rested from their labors. They were viewed as manly, strong, industrious, and diligent…people of faith, devotion to family, with a strong work ethic…carriers of strong values worthy of being emulated.

Leon Augustin Lhermitte (1844-1925) - "The Harvester's Wages" - 83" x 109" - Oil  (1882)

Leon Augustin Lhermitte (1844-1925) – “The Harvester’s Wages” – 83″ x 109″ – Oil   (1882)

 

Artists being the perceptive bunch that they are, created paintings that satisfied the public’s romanticized perception. It’s nothing new, we see it throughout art history. The idealized is often preferred over the real; contemporary western art is a prime example.

I thoroughly appreciate the works of so many artists of this period. The paintings are not only beautiful and well-crafted but they lift up, they celebrate humanity and its relationship to nature…and the peasant many considered to be ignoble, these artists saw in them value and nobility.

Here’s a good book for you to add to your library; it was the source used for this blog, authored by Richard and Caroline Brettell. Click on picture to order.

peasants-1

Next week:  Hodges Soileau interview

Hodge -Bio photo -r

 *************************************************

I am continuing to offer to you, my newsletter subscribers, blog, and Facebook followers, something special…and up until now…unseen color studies that I’ve done over the years in preparation for a larger piece, or as stand alone works of art. These color studies are done on 100 lb archival paper that has received one coat of gesso; paper size is 5.5″ x 8.5″ and contains my notes: date painted, location, palette used, etc. Each study is offered in three configurations: 1) Image with notes (unmounted); 2) Image with notes (mounted on board); 3) Image only (mounted on board). This week’s offering is a study for “The Narrow Gate”. If interested in owning one of my works, here’s a very affordable opportunity. For now, these offers are only for those in the United States; I will pay all shipping and applicable sales tax. Click on image to enlarge. Let me know of your interest. Thanks.

009

john@pototschnik.com

*************************************************

I am very pleased to announce the release of my first instructional DVD, Limited Palette Landscapes, professionally produced by Liliedahl Art Videos. The video contains over 15 hours of instruction and follows my painting process from selection of the canvas to the final brush stoke. For a detailed description of the video contents, including a short video…and order instructions…please click HERE. Thank you in advance for adding this DVD to your video library. Upon viewing, if you would kindly share your comments with me, I would greatly appreciate it. THANK YOU.

*************************************************

You may keep up with my weekly Facebook postings at: ”John Pototschnik Fine Art“….and subscribe to my YouTube channel at: ”John Pototschnik“. Thank You.

 

John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE.  (Totally new look)