Having followed a rigorously reversed chronological sequence in arranging our images of resting in the hay from the past century, we shall look at the older part of our collection (the rest of the rest) more thematically. My first example is the most recent discovery, found by carefully browsing the huge Athenaeum collection for the umpteenth time. As noteworthy for its title (translated as “Tedders at the end of the day”) as for the accuracy of its depiction of young women haymakers resting on the grass they've just turned (tedded). The setting is an orchard, and the costumes appear to be Breton, a region which the artist Theophile-Louis Deyrolle often painted. The discovery is disconcerting only because it was made more than two years into our project, thanks to the Athenaeum site's continued expansion.
Our other two introductory paintings were created more than a decade and half a continent apart but are closely similar in theme and treatment. The Hungarian Istvan Csok was heavily influenced by the more famous Jules Bastien-Lepage. Nowhere was this influence more evident than in this pair of paintings of haymakers at rest. Specifically, as Gabriel Weisber has noted, in Csok’s 'grouping of the peasants in the field and [in] the re-creation of the languorous atmosphere.' But the utter exhaustion of the girl in Bastien-LePage's work is replaced here by gentle relaxation, and the costumes are more specifically ethnographic than in the French image. The texture of the windrow on which the girl is lying is very well depicted.
Nineteenth century gallery, after 1870.
1. Louis Paul Dessar. Summer sunlight. 1894. As with Dessar's falsely labeled hhaystacks scene , this lovely painting has a woman with a rake in the foreground, here seated in the shade with her tool on the ground. She is half-turned away from the observer towards some authentic haycocks in the right background. 2. Alexander Mann, Day dreams. 1882. Mann’s painting, like Csok’s, above, also reflects the influence of Bastien-Lepage. The crop is yet to be mown, the subject is alone, the title evokes escapism, but the pose is almost identical to the worn-out woman in the French painter’s 1877 work.
Nineteenth century gallery, before 1870.
An introductory trio of images contrasts three sub-themes common in the mid-nineteenth century: sentimental escapism; social pleasures; and solemn weariness. 18. Adolphe Bouguereau. Rest in harvest. 1865. The salon painter’s version of rustic rest is frivolous and seductive, but technically masterful. 19. Summer joys. 1864. An anonymous engraving captures the cooperative satisfaction of collective haymaking. A farm worker leans on his pitchfork watching his wife play with their child. A group of farm hands in the background relax with their families and pets. 20. Hugh Cameron. Weary farmer, Scotland. 19th century. A poor reproduction shows enough to demonstrate the melancholy mood and message of the Scottish painter’s highland scene. Such familiar elements of traditional hay painting as the row of cocks and the woman leaning on a rake, are secondary to the almost funereal poses of the other figures.
Along with Jean-Francois Millet’s immensely popular paintings on the rigors of rural work are several equally famous images of workers at rest. Strictly speaking, his most common context was the harvest of grain not hay, but his theme is so archetypal that it must be included here. 21. Jean-Francois Millet. Noonday rest. 1865. One of the most frequently copied images of a frequently copied artist. We have already shown its best known adaptation (see # 3, by Van Gogh, above). 22. John Singer Sargent. Noon. c1875. Sargent’s drawing was done while he was still a teenager. For other Sargent copies of Millet see his Botteleur and Faucheur.
A pair of American paintings from before the Civil War offer deceptively benign commentaries on race relations during pauses in the harvest. 27. Junius Brutus Stearns. George Washington at Mount Vernon during hay harvest. 1851. Although the Corbis caption describes this as a hay harvest, the wheat-colored standing crop, the sickles being used to cut it, and the sheaves on the ground and in the cart, all indicate grain of some kind. Nevertheless the picture is too full of interest to omit. The great man dressed in a black suit, is talking to a white overseer holding a rake; most of the other workers are dark-skinned males; a young woman serves them drinks from a bucket; nearby a white child braids flowers into the hair of his female playmate. 28. William Sidney Mount. Farmers nooning. 1836. Alfred Frankenstein has given us penetrating insight into the complexities underlying this work: “Four men and a boy rest in a hayfield in the shade of a tree. One of the men, and African-American, lies asleep and utterly relaxed on a haycock, unperturbed by the small boy tickling his face with a stalk. A quarter of a century before the Civil War, the social relations are benign, even blissful. Yet Mount appears, in his letters, to be a supporter of slavery, a sentiment strangely at variance with his sympathetic portrayal of black people, to whom he was the first to give a place of dignity in American art.” Frankenstein, Alfred. William Sidney Mount. NY: Abrams, 1975, p.201.
Christina Payne’s superb study of nineteenth century paintings of British rural work and their subtle ideologies (Toil and Plenty, Yale UP, 1993) includes several images of laborers at rest from haymaking. Here is a selection of her illustrations and insights. 29. John Linnell. Hayfield. 1864. 30. John Linnell. Mowers in the field in Porchester Terrace, Bayswater. 1830. When this sketch was made, the field was at the edge of the London suburb of Bayswater. The positions and dress of the seated figures are very close to those shown in Linnell's 1864 painting. Payne draws our attention to the absence of women from the sketch, and surmises that the work is at the early mowing phase; the women would come later to turn it with rakes and forks. 30. John Linnell. Haymakers' repast: a scene in Wales. 1815. Payne notes that this oil painting was based on a watercolor done during Linnell's trip to Wales two years earlier. But the earlier sketch (ID 1236)included only the field and its workers making haycocks; the foreground figures, one lying as flat as the rake beside him, another carrying a pot on her head, others sitting in a row, were all added later.
Sixteenth and seventeenth century gallery.
Seventeenth century Dutch calendar paintings often used haymaking scenes to epitomize summer months and frequently included vignettes of relaxation as counterpoint to the urgency of labor. 36. Egidius Sadeler. People harvesting hay in August. 17th century calendar engraving. 37. Paulus Bril. Harvesting. 17th century drawing. A sketch in the round shows grain harvesting at right and haymaking at left. Some of the workers rest under a large tree which divides the frame. In the foreground there is a man with a two-tined pitchfork, and an animal carrying hay on its back.
38. Adriaen Van de Velde. Haymakers in a landscape. 17th century. A regrettably tiny reproduction shows a crowded Dutch landscape with a dozen figures, less than half of whom are working. The rest, in a tightly knit group in the foreground are variously flirting, eating, drinking and sleeping. 39. Jan van Goyen. Haymaking. 1630. Several kinds of haystack are depicted: haycocks in the background, being forked onto a loaded cart; a full hay shed; a loose low pile in the foreground with a taller stack nearby, against which workers relax with their midday meal. Overhead, dramatic clouds threaten to cut short their rest.
40. Abel Grimmer. Haymaking. 1592 [detail from artunframed]. The earliest item in our collection was discovered at the artunframed website two years ago. The rectilinear reproduction had been adapted to a commercial art poster. In the central foreground a man sleeps on a haycock. 41. Abel Grimmer. Haymaking. 1592 [a more complete copy of the original circular image] . Not so square, a Viennese publisher of art posters (Kunstverlag Reisser) has a more faithful circular version that includes another detail relevant to our theme: a couple’s embrace on a haycock in the restored foreground.