Artwork Detail

La moisson (The Harvest)
French, 1844–1925
Oil on canvas
92 x 104 5/16 "
University purchase, Parsons Fund, 1912
WU 2707
Exhibited at the French Salon of 1883 and the 1889 Paris World's Fair, and reproduced in numerous newspapers and periodicals, Léon Lhermitte's La Moisson was the most celebrated of his scenes of rural life. The third in a series of six paintings heroicizing peasant life, Lhermitte's large canvas demonstrates a version of the Realist style of painting developed in the mid-nineteenth century that portrayed rural peasantry and the lower classes with the dignity and seriousness of academic historical, allegorical, and religious painting. With a close, monumental focus on the figures absorbed in their work in the field, Lhermitte's painting meticulously documents the customs, dress, and tools of the Mont-Saint-Père region at the time. Realist images like this delighted urban middle-class audiences who envisioned in rural life - perceived as simpler and more "primitive" - a reprieve from their daily routines. Initially political in intention, later Realist images such as this one presented a utopian and harmonious ideal of a bountiful, peaceful world while overlooking the real hardships and plights of the lower classes.