One figure rests with his back to the viewer, addressing two standing women. The figure on the right, who strikes a graceful pose while resting on a pitchfork, was a favorite of Lhermitte and he depicted her often both on her own and as part of larger figural groups, as seen in Harvesters at rest (1888, National Gallery of Ireland) and La fin de la journée (1897, The Dayton Art Institute, Ohio). The seated man with his scythe was another cherished figure and can be seen in earlier compositions such as La Fenaison (1890, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St Louis, fig. 1), which shares another similarity to the present work in that it describes the same trees and landscape setting, the hazy outline of a building in the distance possibly Rue Chailly farm in the artist’s native village.
Lhermitte’s interest in representing the lives of rural laborers in France, including harvesters, shepherds and gleaners, developed from his own humble origins in the village of Mont-Saint-Père, in the Aisne region of France. Encouraged by the success of his painting La paye des moissoneurs (1882, Musée d’Orsay, Paris), the artist dedicated his career to the description of rustic life and the heroic dignity of its laborers.
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