I was recently looking over photos of some of the pieces I carried in my vintage shop RevivalSmith and I was reminded of this poster of a painting by Jules Breton, The Song of the Lark. I was already a fan of Jean Francois Millet's The Gleaners when I came upon this poster and it struck the same chord in me that Millet's famous painting had -- appreciation for the beauty of hard work, community and closeness with the land. In researching some of his other works, I realized that I connect with a lot of Breton's pieces. His subjects are often women -- farm workers -- and he clearly has reverence for them and the simple but dignified lives they lead.
Jules Breton (1827-1906) was born in a small village in the Pas-de-Calais and his paintings were deeply influenced by the rural life he experienced and witnessed as a boy. He began painting in the Realist style but his later works are more representative of Symbolism. More information about the Symbolist movement can be found here. We live in a complicated time where women are expected to conform to a very specific aesthetic ideal that excludes much of the female population, so seeing depictions of women with strong arms and sturdy feet who are nevertheless feminine and beautiful does my soul good.
Returning from the Fields
Paysanne au Repos
Young Women Going to a Procession
Calling in the Gleaners