Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884): Hay making, 1877, oil on

Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884): Hay making, 1877, oil on

4/21/2021, 3:41:57 PM
Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884): Hay making, 1877, oil on canvas, 160 x 195 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris Jules Bastien-Lepage first intended to become a history painter, but was twice deprived of the Prix de Rome, and turned to portraiture and rural genre scenes. His 'Hay making' from 1877 provoked debate over what was considered to be its harsh portrayal of life and work in the country. Emile Zola was excited by 'Hay Making', seeing it as the masterpiece of naturalism in painting. Indeed it is a far cry from Millet's Rest. The artist has powerfully captured the epic of the French countryside and depicted the peasants in their simplicity and despondency: the young woman sitting in the foreground is haggard with weariness. The scene is inspired by a poem: "The reaper stretched out on his bed of fresh grass Sleeps with clenched fists while The tedder, faint and fuddled, tanned by the sun, Sits vacantly dreaming beside him […]. " The painting clearly exceeds the scope of this mild text and was indeed very popular at the 1878 Salon. The composition is daringly photographic: the horizon is unusually high, allowing the hay "like a very pale yellow cloth shot with silver" to fill the main part of the canvas. The effects of accelerated perspective, the light palette, and close framing of the figures are signs of modernity within the naturalist approach. At the same time, its deep recession and broad inclusion of land gives it the illusion of a very wide-angle panorama, which enhances the exhaustion and desolation of its figures. The artist’s cousin, Marie-Adèle Robert, was the model, and her utterly vacant stare is piercing. Its appearance at the Salon resulted in debate over the harsh life that it portrayed. (Musée d'Orsay)

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