At this time, peasant activities continued to dominate Lhermitte’s subject matter, and his scenes were often painted on a monumental, life-sized scale. He preferred to place his figures prominently in the landscape, usually positioning them very close to the picture plane to emphasize their scale and importance, as seen in the present lot. Painted in 1889, here Lhermitte has depicted a scene on a hot afternoon during the summer harvest, when the wheat needed to be reaped, gathered and stacked. This seasonal activity would have been a familiar sight from Lhermitte’s childhood in Mont-Saint-Père in northern France. Throughout his long career, Lhermitte looked to rural life for his inspiration, and his scenes of workers in the fields came to not only represent a realistic vision but also a more intangible concept – that of man’s relationship with nature and his stoicism to endure in the face of hard work and even hardship. This was a point of view also shared by Millet, but unlike Millet, whose peasants are depicted instinctively resolute with their lot in life, Lhermitte’s workers are “proud, identifiable persons; his neighbors, the inhabitants of Mont-Saint-Père. As he said: ‘I never invent. All my characters are portraits of someone.’”(Mary Hamel, Léon Lhermitte, exh. cat., Paine Art Center and Arboretum, Oshkosh, 1974, pp. 7-18).
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