October 04, 2007

German and Alpine hay.

German and northern Alpine hay: art, nostalgia and therapy.

Two weeks of August 2007 in southern Germany and the northern Alps reinforced the impression that loose hay-making, except in such relict landscapes as Maramures, is now almost completely confined to museums and such ancillary boutique industries as Heukur and Heubad. So this essay, necessarily short, will focus on art, nostalgia, and therapy. Admittedly, the weather was too overcast and unpredictable to encourage much hiking in the high Alpine meadows, although rumors of people scything and bundling hay up near the Swiss glaciers almost led to some serious mountaineering in search of two kinds of shrinking geographical phenomena.

The wet summer evidently persuaded the modern, technologically sophisticated and risk-averse grass-cutters, not just of sub-Alpine Bavaria and Swabia but even in the high mountain meadows, to wrap their crops in plastic. As we have shown elsewhere, in the Wales to Wisdom essay, the textural and geometric simplicity of these forms give them an aesthetic appeal which is both minimalist and monumental. Here are a few new examples.

Swiss silage bales.

Ritch. Silage bales, near Les Moulins, Pays d'Enhaut, Switzerland. 2007.  Ritch. Silage bales and church, near Les Mosses, Pays d'Enhaut, Switzerland. 2007.

Bavarian silage bales.

Ritch. Silage bales, Bavaria. 2007. Ritch. Silage bales, Bavaria. 2007. Ritch. Silage bales, Bavaria. 2007.

Eventually these silage bundles may find their way into the art museums which now shelter the memories of how hay used to be made. Visits to the Kunsthaus in Zurich and the Alte Pinakothek in Munich were rewarded by the discovery of several new images, either on the walls or in the bookstores.

Rudolf Koller’s mid 19th century Swiss romanticism.
Koller is best known for his depiction of a stage-coach hurtling over the newly constructed Gotthard Pass, through a herd of puzzled cows. The middle of the three hay paintings shown here has many of the same contrasting elements: a rustic Swiss landscape full of the frantic activity of brilliantly depicted animals and their humans under a threatening sky. The other two pictures are more tranquil. The one on the right needs to be added to our sub-theme of resting in the hay.

Koller. Heuwagen. 1856.  Koller. Heuernte bei drobendem Gewitter. 1854.  Koller. Mittagsmahl auf dem Felde. 1867.

Otto Frolicher and Charles Giron.
Two other Swiss painters are illustrated here. Frolicher shows a distant hayfield; and Giron an encounter between two haymakers in an Alpine landscape. The latter is off particular interest, both for its implicit romance and for the characteristic method of bundling hay in cloth, reportedly still practiced in those high meadows which are beyond the reach of wheeled vehicles.
Frolicher. Hubeli Attisholz. 1868. Giron.  Paysans et paysage a Lavey. 1885.

Dutch haysheds in the Alte Pinakothek.

Since the Munich museum is far more than a regional institution and has particularly strong collections of Dutch and Flemish art, there were also items for our friend Wim Lanphen, by his 17th century countrymen, Philips Wouwerman and Pieter de Bloot.

Wouwerman. Bewolkete Dunenlandschaft [detail]. 17th century. Wouwerman. Winterlandschaft [detail]. 17th century. Bloot.  Bauernbelustigung [detail]. 17th century.

The Alte Pinakothek also allowed close-up views of such old favorites as Rubens’ 1637 Landschaft mit den Regenbogen, with haystacks like pots of gold at the left end of the rainbow, and Van Goyen’s Bauerngehofte am Fluss (Village at the river), with prominent hayshed and hay-barge, painted the previous year.
Rubens. Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (Landscape with the rainbow). 1637. Rubens. Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (Landscape with the rainbow) [detail]. 1637. Goyen. Bauerngehofte am Fluss (Village at the river) [detail]. 1636.

Desiree Thomassin: Bavariations on a theme.

Thomassin. 1914 signature.

My familiarity with traditional Bavarian haymaking came initially from a fine original oil painting on the wall of a dear Santa Cruz friend who had brought it with her in her migration from Vienna before the War. She knew of my interest and asked me to discover what I could about the artist, Desiree Thomassin (1858-1933). I was please to discover that Thomassin, born in Austria but most active in southern Germany, seemed to be almost exclusively a hay painter, sharing with Martin Johnson Heade and Julien Dupre a tendency to combine and recombine an intricate pictorial vocabulary of hay-making activities. These variations on a theme must have been popular when composed early in the 20th century and they continue to appear for sale in galleries in the 21st. Thomassin's charming hayscapes are evidently absent both from today's Bavarian meadows and from the great museums of Munich and Vienna. Most of the following scenes were culled from the internet at the time of their sale to private collections.
Given the style and content of the first image, I had originally put the work in the 19th century, but later discovered the very similar second image dated 1916. The Great War may explain the relatively high number of women workers. Thomassin paintings, with Munchen under the signature, led me to change the place from Austria to Germany. Note the unusual pairing in number one of horse and ox under the same yoke. A rare variation in number two is the presence of two equally prominent wagons, the slightly smaller horse-drawn load oriented, eccentrically for Thomassin, towards the left of the frame.
Thomassin. Heuernte. Thomassin. Heuernte.

The third image is the one I have closely inspected in the original. It shares with all the other works perused less directly a low horizon, luminous, slightly threatening sky, and half-a-dozen figures working cooperatively. The women, usually in the majority, wear red kerchiefs and blue aprons. All these features are present in the image next to it. The overlapping poses of the figures to the left of the wagon are almost identical.
Thomassin. Heuernte.Thomassin. Heuernte.

The next image, dated 1916, has the usual tableau, but the title given by the dealer, “Harvest time,” seems unduly influenced by the golden crop of grain at left. The material being loaded is clearly hay. The one at right, painted in 1930, is unusual in its composition and content, and the figures of both animals and human seem more awkward, literally less practiced than Thomassin’s usual poses.
Thomassin. Harvest time. 1916. Thomassin. Nach der Heuernte.

The title of the next image is “Harvest in Upper Bavaria” giving more geographical precision than usual. This and the one next to it were borrowed from an online image bank with disfiguring watermarks at lower left.
Thomassin. Harvest in Upper Bavaria. Thomassin. Harvesting day.

The following were all discovered after our recent visit to Austria and Bavaria. The one on the left was offered in a September auction at Hampel Auctions in Munich for an estimated range of 2500 to 3500 euros.
Thomassin. Heuernte. Thomassin. Heuernte.

Two more Thomassins sold this year: the first at a May auction in Vienna for about 3000 euros; the other for 4200 euros on ebay, which retains an excellent suite of details, one shown here to demonstrate again the anomaly of horse and ox yoked together.
Thomassin. Heuernte. Thomassin. Heuernte. 1914. Thomassin. Heuernte. 1914. [detail]

Italian folk art in Austrian inns.
Folk art, probably from the Italian Alps, decorated the walls of two of the three guest houses we stayed at. By coincidence, a suite of four in the in the Austrian Alps and a pair in west of Vienna, each, like Bruegel and the Books of Hours, celebrated seasonal activities, and each included haystacks in every landscape. Though hay like this is no longer seen beyond the walls of inns and museums, it is evidently still evocative enough of Alpine traditions to used as a decorative trope.

Unknown Italian. Haymaking. Unknown Italian. Harvesting.  Unknown Italian. Pruning.  Unknown Italian. Making wine.

Unknown Italian. Estate (Summer: haymaking and harvesting).  Unknown Italian. Winter cutting wood.

Heimat and Heinzen.
In Southern Germany, where a deeply rooted sense of place (Heimat) is everywhere apparent, small towns and even villages are likely to have agricultural museums, displaying tools and structures no longer present in the rural landscape. We spent almost a week in Wilhelmsdorf with our dear friends the Blickles, parents of our cousin-in-law Peter who has actually published a book on Heimat. Their local museum had a traditional hayrack, but even more delightful was the pair of Heinzen, as they are called, which Herr Blickle had constructed to welcome us in his own backyard. These hay prisms were so skilfully constructed that a week of frequent rain failed to penetrate the outer layer. Infected by our enthusiasm, he also pulled out a postcard recently received from his son, Frieder, a well-known photographer whose work promotes Tyrolean tourism, celebrates New York, and makes gourmet food pictures good enough to eat. His aptitude and possibly his appetite may stem from experiences with a family that evidently loves to celebrate around good meals. A few pictures of other members of the family, Peter's brother Martin and sister Ann and Ann's husband Helge, and their beautiful, talented children, are included, not because they are directly related to hay, but because they make us remember Wilhelmsdorf, their Heimat, with such affection.

Ritch. Heinzen hay-rack, Wilhelmsdorf. 2007.  Ritch.  Hedwig and Ernst Blickle with  Heinzen, Wilhelmsdorf. 2007.

Ritch. Blickle family with Heinzen, Wilhelmsdorf. 2007. Blickle.  AR and Ernst Blickle with  Heinzen, Wilhelmsdorf. 2007.

Other members of the Blickle clan.

Ritch. Peter Martin and Anne Blickle. 2007.

Blickle family. 2007.Ritch. Blickle family. 2007. Blickle family. 2007.

Ritch. Blickle family. 2007. Ritch. Blickle family. 2007. Ritch. Blickle family. 2007.

Austrian Heinzen or Heumannschen.
Several books in the Blickle library included Swabian, Swiss and Austrian hayscapes of the not-too-distant past. In anticipation of our visit, I had sent them a copy of our favorite book of hay as art, Sotriffer’s Heu und Strohe, reviewed elsewhere on this site. Frieder had discovered the book independently and, hearing of our interest, had sent yet another copy to his parents! A trio of images from Sotriffer's book, taken in subalpine Austria in 1989, suggest how rapidly this region has changed.

Strein. Aufgebauten Heumannchen in Kolonnen und Gruppen. 1989. Strein. Aufgebauten Heumannchen in Kolonnen und Gruppen. 1989. Sotriffer. Heustocke bei Kostenberg. 1989.

Postcard from Switzerland.
Frieder Blickle sent this postcard "Heuernte bei Crasta im Fextal" to his parents to show them and me what Alpine haymaking looked like 80 years ago.

Heuernte (haymaking)bei Crasta im Fextal. c. 1920.

Three Rudolf Leser photographs of Heinzen in Upper Swabia.
Rudolf Leser has contributed his magnificent photographs of the region to Kontraste in Oberschwaben and several other books, including the mysterious cover of one of the novels listed in our Books Covered in Haysection. Herr Blickle pulled one of them from his library, having remembered a panorama of Heinzen shadows. Judging from the rhythm and pattern of the shadows and their construction on single stakes, these appear to be less triangular and more humanoid than the ones in the garden. There are legends of would be invaders to the region being deterred by what appeared to be endless ranks of defenders on the hills. In parts of Romania, hay structures like these are known as "Germans"!
Leser. Heinzen, Obershwaben. Leser. Heinzen stakes, Obershwaben.  Leser. Woman making hay, Obershwaben.

Contrasts in the village of Steinhausen.
We visited the small village of Steinhausen to see the incongruously magnificent baroque church, which towered over the the seat of secular authority and the farmhouses clustered around it. On one of the latter was a mural recalling the old methods of hay-making. Nearby was a modern silage dump, weighed down with tires, and a plastic-wrapped bale under a plum-tree.
Ritch. Steinhausen church and village hall. 2007. Ritch. Steinhausen church interior. 2007. Ritch. Haymaking mural, Steinhausen. 2007.

Ritch. Steinhausen silage. 2007. Ritch. Steinhausen silage bale and plums. 2007.

A new role for hay.

Hay, now uniformly wrapped in rolls, has another role to play in the regional tourist economy. Intrigued by a brochure at the Blickles and nudged by several members of the family to experience the phenomenon for himself, this hay connoisseur exposed his bare skin to hot, wet hay in a Heubad (hay bath) at the nearby resort of Höchsten . The hay-bather is not immersed in water. Instead, he lies on a bed of fresh hay separated from a very hot, conventional water bath by a sheet of plastic, not unlike the material used to wrap the silage. Then another layer is spread on his front and also covered by plastic. Then the whole bundle is lowered mechanically into the hot water which surrounds but does not penetrate the package of human and hay. The initial itchiness persuades the bather to lie completely still, which in turn induces an increasingly euphoric, meditative state. The fragrance alone has a soporific effect and the thirty minute exposure passes pleasantly. Only the best Alpine hay, a mix of dozens of herbs alleged to have ancient therapeutic value, cut by scythes and cured in the traditional way, is used in the Heubad (or as it is called in many of the German and Austrian spas Heukur). This use of hay is advertised widely on the internet. Here are some examples from the several thousand listed: Heubad auf der Wiese; Hotel Berg Panorama; Oasol, Zermatt, Switzerland; Spa Visions, Kraxen Stove; and Heukur newsletter, Pfronten Weissbach.

Heukur logo, Pfronten Weissbach.  2007. Anker. Schafender Knabe im Heu. 1897. Gordon. Schafender Knabe (Alan Ritch) im Heubad. 2007.

Promoters of these hay cures report that shepherds or haymakers, aching from hours of climbing in the high Alpine meadows, found that a night’s rest on a bed of hay miraculously soothed their muscles, cured rheumatism and revived their strength. We are willing to support any legend which supports the conservation of diverse flowery hay-fields and traditional modes of harvesting them. The demand for Alpine hay of the highest quality has already spread as far as Bath in the west of England, where an expensive spa, close to where the Romans relaxed two thousand years earlier, imports all its hay from Austria. While the intrepid hay investigator was not allowed to see the Bath hay-baths, their description implies the very latest system, known as a Kraxen Stove, where skin does not actually touch the hay. Spa Visions, a North American company, offers the following strange description: "This facility provides a mild herbal steaming in the area of back, shoulders and sides of the body and an overwarming of the pelvis. In the Kraxen Stove, alpine hay is held in a back-grating, which is placed in the niche of a stove. In this way, the client does not come in direct contact with the hay and therefore, it is not required to change the hay after each treatment. In addition every clients gets a hay pack which is used as a seat pillow, guaranteeing personal hygiene."

Hay bath, Bavaria.  Hay bath, Bavaria. Hay bath, Italian Tyrol. 2007. Kraxen Stove, Spa Visions. 2007.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:49 PM

September 27, 2007

Maramureş 2007. Return to hay heaven.

Bruegel. Haymaking [detail]. 1565. Finding himself in central and eastern Europe in the summer of 2007, the hay pilgrim again felt the irresistible magnetism of that northwestern region of Romania known as Maramureş, especially since a huge, traditional wedding of a beautiful Romanian friend would coincide with his visit, and especially since his inefficient but entertaining ramblings in search of hay in southern Germany and the northern Alps had proved to be less productive for the hayinart database. The summer was too wet and the technology too advanced to for any traditional haymaking to survive north of the Alps and west of the Carpathians. After a bizarre series of irrational journeys, from Germany to Geneva to Gatwick and back to Budapest, with a sideways shuttle to Beograd and back again to Budapest, he rented a PT Cruiser (like last year’s but cherry red), and drove six hours further east, to Eden.

Explorers of this sprawling website may have stumbled across a suite of ten illustrated esssays on the magic of Maramureş, written a year ago. They will remember that this corner of Europe is one of the few where hay is made in the Bruegel style and where haymaking itself is a vernacular craft of the most appealing kind.
Bruegel. Peasant Wedding. 1567. And they will understand the appeal of the added incentive, the wedding of the daughter of Petru Berci (star of one of the finest hay photographs ever taken), an event which promised to be Bruegelian in itself. So here, in two parts, is an account of another week in Maramureş: first, some new hay discoveries; and second, some highlights of the remarkable wedding in Sarbi, an event which caused hundreds of celebrating villagers to set aside their scythes, rakes and forks for a whole weekend, and which, like other nuptials documented on this site, allows hayinart similarly to interrupt its primary industry.

Rediscovering the appeal of Surdesti haystacks.
Having arrived in Surdesti after dark, I rose early next morning to discover that the haystack was as beautiful as I had remembered it. Indeed the stacks in and around Surdesti were all as fine in their shapes and textures and juxtapositions as they were last Autumn.

Ritch. Dawn haystack, Surdesti. 2007. Ritch. Haystacks near Plopis. 2007.

Ritch. Haystacks on the edge of Surdesti. 2007. Ritch. Haystacks near Plopis. 2007. Ritch. Haystacks near Plopis. 2007.

Dried hay and drying clothes (homage to Grunwald and the Baia Mare School).
The most prominent painting on the second floor of the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest is Bela Grunwald’s dazzling 1903 depiction of brightly colored clothes drying on a line next to a haystack already dried by the same sunshine. This motif still appears repeatedly in the Maramureş landscape.

 Ritch. Clothesline and haystack, Feresti. 2007.  Ritch. Clothesline and haystack, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Clothesline and haystack, Surdesti. 2007.

Stacks, stones, shrines and spires.
The juxtaposition of haystacks, grave-markers, road-side shrines, and towering wooden spires remains an irresistible theme of the durably sacred and the ephemerally profane.

 Ritch. Crucifix, Iza Valley. 2007.  Ritch. Gravestone and haystack, Surdesti. 2007. Ritch. Crosses and haystack, Surdesti. 2007.

 Ritch. Haystack, spire, Plopis. 2007.  Ritch. Haystack, spire, Plopis. 2007. Ritch. Haystack, spire, Plopis. 2007.

Ritch. Haystacks, cows and spire, Surdesti. 2007. Ritch. Haystacks, cows and spire, Surdesti. 2007.

Stacking hay near Breb.
The spectacular road which runs along the ridge between Sarbi and Breb offers a vista of hay meadows and apple orchards. Last year, there were no tractors in the landscape. Here a bright little red tractor hitched to a load of apples stands next to a haystack in the process of completion. The tightly woven corona, to be fitted as a plug around the central stake, was full of summer flowers. The old man on top carefully took it from an extended furcoi, then climbed down the ladder. The feet that had compressed the hay were bare. Resting under an apple tree, he pulled on his sandals, while the rest of the family gave their names to the scrupulous professional, my photographer friend, Kathleen.

 Ritch. Stacking hay near Breb. 2007.  Ritch. Stacking hay near Breb. 2007.

Ritch. Corona for a haystack, near Breb. 2007.  Ritch. Taking the corona from the furcoi, near Breb. 2007.  Ritch. Climbing down the stack, near Breb. 2007.

Ritch. Resting under an apple-tree, near Breb. 2007. Ritch. Kathleen taking names of haymakers, near Breb. 2007.

Repairing old stacks.
Imperfectly compressed stacks sometimes separate from their summits, and become even more humanoid. On the road along the Iza Valley, I saw a man, hanging on the central stack, twisting and stomping in an effort to pull an older stack back into respectable shape.

 Ritch. Humanoid stack, near Surdesti. 2007.  Ritch. Repairing an old stack, Iza Valley. 2007. Ritch. Repairing an old stack, Iza Valley. 2007.

Drying hay near Slatioara.
Judging from the wonderful variety of strategies and structures for drying hay beside the road to Slatioara and Glod, we assume that the grass in that narrow valley is particularly thick and damp. A simple geometric classification would summarize the forms, in ascending order of their frequency into triangles, rectangles, and linear exclamation points. But such reductionism does inadequate justice to variations on these themes, the visual rhythms which decorate the meadows, the stages of their construction, and the skill of those who shape them.

 Ritch. Triangular racks, Iza Valley. 2007.  Ritch. Triangular racks, Iza Valley. 2007. Ritch. Triangular racks, Iza Valley. 2007.

Ritch. Empty hay racks, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Empty hay rack and windrows, near Slatioara. 2007.

 Ritch. Hanging hay on racks, near Slatioara. 2007.  Ritch. Hanging hay on racks, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on racks, near Slatioara. 2007.

 Ritch. Hanging hay on racks, near Slatioara. 2007.  Ritch. Resting by a hayrack, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hayracks, near Slatioara. 2007.


 Ritch. Planting a stake, near Slatioara. 2007.  Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007.

 Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007.  Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007.

 Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007.  Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007.

Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hanging hay on a stake, near Slatioara. 2007.

Ritch. Hay on stakes, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Hay on stakes, near Slatioara. 2007.

The changing sopron.
On behalf of our Dutch friend, Wim Lanphen, and his heroic fascination with haysheds with adjustable roofs (soprons in the local dialect), I collected a few examples which I’d missed last year. Among them were inevitable signs of decay and startling evidence of non-traditional materials, including a roof of corrugated plastic, lime-green in color!

Ritch. Sopron, haystack and hay on stakes, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Soprons, Iza Valley. 2007.

 Ritch. Empty sopron, Sarbi. 2007.  Ritch. Berci sopron, Sarbi. 2007. Ritch. Sopron, Feresti. 2007.

 Ritch. Soprons, Feresti. 2007.  Ritch. Sopron, dog,  Feresti. 2007. Ritch. Sopron, hayrack, vegetable garden, Vadu Izei. 2007.

 Ritch. Metal sopron, Vadu Izei. 2007.  Ritch. Soprons, Vadu Izei. 2007. Ritch. Sopron with plastic roof, Vadu Izei. 2007.

 Ritch. Sopron, Vadu Izei. 2007.  Ritch. Sopron and barn, Iza Valley. 2007. Ritch. Barn, Iza Valley. 2007.

 Ritch. Soprons, near Slatioara. 2007.  Ritch. Soprons, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Soprons, near Slatioara. 2007.

 Ritch. Sopron, near Slatioara. 2007.  Ritch. Sopron and cow-barn, near Slatioara. 2007. Ritch. Farm-house and cow-barn, near Slatioara. 2007.

Ritch.  Woman using mechanical mower, near Surdesti.Technological change and a Hungarian postscript.
The hand-pushed mechanical mower which has begun to replace the scythe has evidently effected another change. Along with their traditional roles as rakers, women, as well as men, can now be seen cutting the grass. But technological progress in Maramures has fortunately far to go before it catches up with that of the modern farms of neighboring Hungary. Looming near the M3 motorway, southwest of Eger, near the village of Ludas, is what may be the world’s tallest haystack, a metal-framed structure, about six times higher than the highest stack in Romania. I paused during my rush back into modern Europe, and hiked back a mile or so from the nearest freeway exit to try to make sense of this monster. The end view, from the south, gives a certain industrial dignity to the tall narrow structure with its diagonal wire supports, apparently delicate but evidently strong enough to resist the winter easterlies that blow uninterrupted across the Hungarian Plain . The view from the west, revealing its full width, shows an irregular, shaggy sagging which is almost zoomorphic, both as a whole and in each modular frame. It is impossible to know whether this is the haystack of the future or some eccentric engineering aberration.

 Ritch. Modern haystack, near Ludas, Hungary. 2007.  Ritch. Modern haystack, near Ludas, Hungary. 2007.

 Ritch. Modern haystack, near Ludas, Hungary. 2007.  Ritch. Modern haystack, near Ludas, Hungary. 2007. Ritch. Modern haystack, near Ludas, Hungary. 2007.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 09:18 PM

Maramures 2007: Ileana's wedding.

Ileana’s wedding: a ceremonial interlude from summer hay.

Ritch. Caroline Juler at the Berci wedding feast. 2007. "Ileana Berci's wedding was one of the most spectacular sights I've ever had the privilege to witness in Romania." -- Caroline Juler, author of the Blue Guide to Romania, Searching for Sarmizegetusa , and the newly published National Geographic Traveler Guide to Romania.

Petru cuts grass and his face before Ileana’s wedding.
Half-an-hour before his only daughter’s wedding was due to begin, Petru Berci was in the orchard, cutting grass for the animals. Later that night, he would leave the celebrations to feed them and milk the cows. During most of the ceremonies he would play a supporting role, serving tuica to the male guests, virtually invisible during the bridal procession and excluded, by tradition, from the inner, primarily god-parents’, circle in the biserica. Even at the night-long feasting and dancing at the community center, he seemed neither to eat nor dance, helping instead to wash some of the literally thousands of dishes in preparation for the long series of courses. He complained only once. Shaving with what appeared to be a dull razor, he cut himself repeatedly. Irritated more by the inconveniently messy blood than by the discomfort, he muttered untranslatable annoyance into the still quiet courtyard.

Ritch. Petru Berci before the wedding. 2007. Ritch. Wedding day grass for the Berci animals. 2007. Ritch. Petru Berci shaving. 2007.

The bride and her relatives in the yard.
Ileana came from the Sighetu hairdressers a few minutes before the ceremony was alleged to begin. Fortunately, since she was informally dressed at the time, the actual ceremony was several hours away. The tradition keeps the bride waiting with her entourage for at least three hours in the formal “best rooms,” that part of the house upstairs which is used only by very special guests or for very special occasions. Maria, Ileana’s grandmother, works as hard as her son-in-law Petru and almost never appears in fine clothes. She looks beautiful in her best scarf, seeming older but more striking than her sister who raised her daughters to be sophisticated urbanites. One of them here is smiling, a rare expression for any member of this wealthy but sullen branch of the family.

Ritch. Ileana Berci arrives from the salon. 2007. Ritch. Maria the grandmother dresses for the wedding. 2007. Ritch. Maria's city sister and niece. 2007.

Decorating the cars.
While members of the bridal party gradually filtered into the yard through the big wooden gateway, young boys decorated the cars parked outside with ribbons and balloons. Even the PT Cruiser rented by a guest from California had its share of paper ribbons, which would drift beside the car for the length of the ceremony and celebration, until shredded by a violent hailstorm the following evening. The street itself was not yet crowded enough to impede the progress of a horse-drawn hay-wagon, as some villagers took advantage of the fine afternoon to bring home some hay before the festivities.
Ritch. Decorating the wedding car. 2007. Ritch. Decorating the wedding car. 2007. Ritch. Decorated PT Cruiser. 2007.

Ritch. Young girls and a decorated car. 2007. Ritch. Hay wagon and wedding guests. 2007.

Boys in the band.
The bride’s band consisted of a few young and musically inexperienced boys, trained and led by Petru’s brother, the principal of the local high school and a very competent fiddler. The boys came early and Maria gave them some encouragement in the yard.

Ritch. Young boys in the band arrive. 2007. Ritch. Young boys in the band. 2007. Ritch. Maria talking to young boys in the band. 2007.

Bride’s friends and family wait in the yard.
Most of the women were dressed in traditional costume, some, especially the young ones, with intricate hair-arrangements that could not be covered, and many, especially among the older group, with head-scarves.
Ritch. Well dressed little girl. 2007. Ritch. Well dressed young women. 2007. Ritch. Maria and friend. 2007.

Guests sat on the benches that ran along one side of the farmyard in front of the car with Virginia plates given to the family by my friend the photographer, Kathleen.. Among them was Kathleen herself, who as one of Ileana’s several official god-parents would have a formal role in the procession, the ceremony, and the giving of monetary gifts. Here she is listening to another god-parent, a college professor from Cluj, who is advising her on what other god-parents would be expecting to give. From time to time, Ileana would come from the upstairs room onto the balcony from which she would greet her family and friends.
Ritch. Guests waiting in the farmyard. 2007. Ritch. Kathleen and another godparent discuss the size of the gift. 2007. Ritch. Ileana on the balcony. 2007.

Preparations in the best room.
In one of the best rooms, surrounded by the family’s finest textiles and furnishings and helped by her closest friends, Ileana was having the final touches applied to her face and her dress. Next door, a table of drinks and cakes was laid out, in preparation for the bridal party who would wait with her during the nervous hours before the groom’s arrival. Pictures of Ileana looked down from the walls and from a laptop computer in the corner of the room.
Ritch. Ileana primping in the best room. 2007. Ritch. Ileana primping in the best room. 2007. Ritch. Setting the table for the bride's family.

Bride’s party waiting in the best room.
The first people to settle in the best seats in the best room were male members of the god-parent family from Baia Mare. Their hostile expressions were startling in the context of rural Maramures where friendliness to strangers and hospitality to the camera are taken for granted. Other, younger friends of the bride sat around the next room.
Ritch. The bride's city godparents get the best seats. 2007. Ritch. Bride's friends in the best room. 2007.

Ritch. Bride's friends in the best room. 2007. Ritch. Bride's friends in the best room.

Band in the best room.
In the room closest to the balcony, a trio of young musicians, led by Petru’s brother, entertained the guests with simple folk melodies. A small girl stood close to the noisy drummer with her hands over her ears.
Ritch. Band in the best room. 2007. Ritch. Band in the best room. 2007.

Ritch. Band in the best room. 2007. Ritch. Band in the best room. 2007.

Boys and girls on separate benches.
Petru walked along the benches plying the young men with the family’s best plum brandy, tuica. Nearby the young women sat on their own benches and seemed not to be drinking.
Ritch. Petru offering tuica to the male guests. 2007. Ritch. Male guests drinking tuica. 2007. Ritch. Female guests sit separately.

Shy flirtations.
As the boys became more flushed from the tuica, some stood near the gate, where groups of young girls, flushed with shyness, approached them. Girls from the city, dressed in fancy modern dresses, understandably seemed more sure of themselves, while the girls in traditional dress engaged in more formal rituals of courtship, for example, pinning lace flowers on the shirts of boys they liked.
Ritch. Shy flirtation with country and city girls. 2007. Ritch. Shy flirtation with country and city girls. 2007.

Ritch. More tuica as country girls approach male guests. 2007. Ritch. Country girls approach male guests. 2007. Ritch. Girl pins lace flower on boy’s shirt.

Villagers waiting at the gate.
In the shadow of the great wooden gateway, women and girls of all ages, evidently most of the village of Sarbi, stood and watched with growing excitement as the crowd of guests grew more impressive.
Ritch. Women from the village wait by the gate. 2007. Ritch. Women from the village wait by the gate. 2007.

Ritch. Woman and baby wait by the gate. 2007. Ritch. Children wait by the gate. 2007.

Flowery horses.
Suddenly a rider trotted through the gateway, his horse so covered in ribbons and flowers that only ears and hooves were visible. The appearance was startling and reminiscent of traditional Indian weddings, but here no fewer than four equestrians rode up and down the street and into and out from the farmyard to everyone’s pleasure and occasional alarm. Those men and women who were most experienced with managing horses, helped the riders deal with the inevitable skittishness.
Ritch. Rider at the gate on flowery horse. 2007. Ritch. Rider in courtyard on flowery horse. 2007. Ritch. Rider at the gate on flowery horse.

Ritch. Rider at the gate on flowery horse. 2007. Ritch. Horse rider closeup. 2007.

Ritch. Woman calms flowery horse. 2007. Ritch. Young men at gate by horse. 2007.

Bridegroom’s procession and arrival.
After at least three hours, we heard the sound of music drifting along the road from the direction of Budesti. The bridegroom’s party was coming at last, led by a band of fine professional musicians, playing and singing boisterous traditional wedding music. At one point the group sat down in the street and sang even more loudly than ever. Petru stood by the gate and welcomed his future son-in-law into the household.
Ritch. Musicians lead bridegroom’s procession. 2007. Ritch. Bridegroom’s music in the street. 2007.

Ritch. Bridegroom and family approach the gate.Ritch. Petru welcomes bridegroom and family at the gate.

Bridegroom’s party waiting in the yard.
The groom having climbed up to the best rooms to meet his intended, his entourage stood in groups around the yard, chatting informally with friends of the bride.
Ritch. Bridegroom’s entourage wait in the courtyard. 2007. Ritch. Bridegroom’s entourage wait in the courtyard. 2007. Ritch. Two entourages meet in the courtyard.

Children from the bridegroom’s party.
Chubby little children from the bridegroom’s party alternately posed with earnest seriousness or giggled at minor mishaps with the traditional headwear.
Ritch. Children from the bridegroom’s entourage. 2007. Ritch. Children from the bridegroom’s entourage. 2007. Ritch. Children from the bridegroom’s entourage.

Children from the bridal party.
Two small girls from the bride’s party finally persuaded a third to join them in a wonderfully cute portrait, spoiled only by the middle elf’s last-second wrinkle.
Ritch. Children from the bride’s entourage. 2007. Ritch. Children from the bride’s entourage. 2007.

Vasilyi dances in the courtyard.
The occasion, the music, and possibly the tuica, stimulated Vasilyi (next-door neighbor and related by marriage to the Berci family), to do a wild song and dance in the courtyard, infectious entertainment during the lull while the groom paying his ritual respects upstairs.
Ritch. Musicians in the courtyard. 2007. Ritch. Vasilyi dances. 2007. Ritch. Vasilyi dances. 2007.

The groom and bride begin their separate processions to the biserica.
Kathleen, holding the candle and flowers of her official role, stood talking to her dear old friend Matusha, sister of Maria, and next-door neighbor of the Bercis. While they talked the groom came down from the best rooms and soon after led his entourage back to the street and off towards the biserica (wooden church). Then Ileana, more lovely than ever, descended with her party, which Kathleen joined as they followed the horses out through the gateway to the road.
Ritch. Kathleen and Matusha in the courtyard. Ritch. Groom coming downstairs. 2007. Ritch. Bride coming downstairs. 2007. Ritch. Bride’s entourage about to leave yard.

Beginning the bride’s procession.
The main street, indeed the only street, of Sarbi, is the primary road between Sighetu and the larger village of Budesti, was filled from one side to the other with people following the bride towards the biserica.
Ritch. Flowery horses leaving yard. 2007. Ritch. Villagers in bride’s procession. 2007. Ritch. Villagers in bride’s procession. 2007.

Musician’s lead the bride’s procession.
At the head of the bride’s party was Petru’s brother and his small band of musicians, with Vasilyi still skipping and singing with irrepressible glee.

Ritch. Musicians lead bride’s procession.Ritch. Musicians lead bride’s procession.

The bride’s procession.
In the middle of the commotion, Ileana looked serene and confident.

Ritch. Bride’s procession.Ritch. Bride’s procession. Ritch. Bride approaches the biserica. 2007.

Horsemen ride between the two processions.
Evidently the riders’ role was to weave between the two processions both clearing a path and keeping them separate. The horses seemed to glow with color in the twilight.
Ritch. Flowery horse clears way for bride. 2007. Ritch. Flowery horse clears way for bride. 2007. Ritch. Flowery horse clears way for bride.

A moving digression.
After the joyful journey along the road and up the steep path to the biserica, there was an abrupt change of mood. A woman in black stood weeping next to a gleaming new grave-stone close to the church-porch. Ileana and her mother, another Ileana, stepped out of the wedding group to the grave. The name Ileana was also on the stone. I had heard of the young woman who lived only three houses from the Bercis, only two years older than the bride and one of her closest friends, a victim of cancer earlier this year. There is a powerful connection between weddings and death in this region. Young women who die before marriage are dressed in white bridal gowns for their funerals. So this digression, though brief, was deeply moving. After a few minutes, much crying and several words of comfort, two surviving Ileanas, the bride’s make-up now marred a little by her tears were reunited with the larger wedding party at the church-door and greeted solemnly by the young priest whose orthodox service we had attended here last year.
Ritch. Another Ileana’s grave. 2007. Ritch. Emotional digression. Ritch. Bride and groom enter the biserica. 2007.

The long, hot ceremony.
The small, exquisite wooden church, like the best of all best rooms, is beautifully decorated with hanging textiles and icons. The floor is thickly carpeted, every inch of which was quickly covered by the soles of the combined entourages. The balcony seemed dangerously loaded with people. The couple stood in front of the priest at the altar, with an inner circle of god-parents close behind them. Ileana’s immediate family struggled behind this ring to try to catch a glimpse of their daughter and follow the long, hot ceremony which would take her from them. Ileana the mother and Maria the grandmother could see nothing but the broad backs of the Baia Mare god-parents, although tall Petru seemed to have a marginally better view. The explanation, given later, was that such exclusion was traditional. Less traditional was the throng of intrusive photographers, mostly Italian for some obscure reason (yes, Ileana has Italian god-parents, too!), who virtually crawled around the back of the altar to find good angles. Evidently this is a common and accepted practice, hence, the popularity of wedding videos as ceaseless entertainment on so many Maramures televisions. Pressed against a side window and eager for a good angle too, I could hardly complain, especially since I felt somewhat pushy for even being inside the church. Kathleen herself carried her ceremonial candle in one hand and her professional camera in the other. The details of the service were difficult to follow, although there were recognizable moments: the bride and groom were crowned, gave their vows, and then led a circular procession in the small space before the altar. When it was over, the priest and several others signed what appeared to be the official registry, and then we all moved at last into the cool fresh air of evening.
Ritch. Bride is crowned. 2007. Ritch. Priest and crowned groom. 2007. Ritch. Crowned bride. 2007.

Ritch. Groom’s relatives watching. 2007. Ritch. Groom’s relatives watching. 2007. Ritch. Church choir listening. 2007.

Ritch. Ending the ceremony. 2007. Ritch. Signing the register. 2007. Ritch. Bride and groom. 2007.

Leaving the biserica.
Outside the church in the darkness was a large crowd of villagers who had chosen not to compete for a place inside. There were no cheers, no hugs, no verbal greetings, simply a mood of quiet exhilaration,.
Ritch. An anxious moment. 2007. Ritch. Leaving the biserica. 2007. Ritch. Girls waiting outside. 2007.

Arriving back at the street.
An even larger crowd, but not much noisier than the one near the biserica, lined the street at the bottom of the church path. Ileana and her husband walked among them, poised and smiling quietly.
Ritch. Bride arrives at street. 2007. Ritch. Proud grandmother Maria. 2007. Ritch. Village women waiting in street. 2007.

The celebration begins.
It is only a mile or so from Sarbi to the center of Budesti, where the wedding feast was to be held. Since Kathleen had to be there promptly, I offered to drive her there and soon regretted the decision. A long line of cars and several busses crawled up the hill at a slower than walking pace. So we parked at the edge of Budesti and walked the rest of the way to the community center, a large hall already occupied by hundreds of people sitting at endless rows of tables. Each table was loaded with dozens of bottles of various drinks, and each place was neatly set with two plates, one of cold cuts, the other of cookies, apparently an adequate meal, since the whole population of two villages had evidently to be fed. These plates proved to be merely appetizers. Every hour or two throughout the night, a large and busy team of boys and girls served one hot entrée after another to every guest: pork roast; beef brisket; chicken stew; and so on. All were eagerly consumed, even by those too old to be burning off the calories in brilliantly athletic traditional dances which everyone from the age of eight or so seemed to know.
Ritch. Bride and groom greet the village. 2007. Ritch. Feast at the Budesti community center. 2007. Ritch. Feast at the Budesti community center. 2007.

Music and dance at Budesti community center.
The giddy dances were too daunting to invite the participation of an ancient foreigner, but enjoyable enough to watch for hours. The music was equally brilliant, a haunting mixture of regional, gypsy and popular refrains, played with breathless skill on electronically enhanced fiddle, keyboard, accordion and sax. The volume was deafening but agreeable enough when conversations were no longer attempted.
Ritch. Dancing at the Budesti community center. 2007. Ritch. Dancing at the Budesti community center. 2007.

 Ritch. Musicians at the Budesti community center. 2007. Above the instruments soared the voice of a truly impressive female vocalist. She was apparently a popular recording artiste whose songs were a staple of the Maramures airways, and she kept me entertained until it was almost dawn. Later I learned that the music and dancing went on until well into the morning. Kathleen told me later the band had cost over 5,000 euros, a bargain considering their skill and energy, but astonishing when added to the cost of half a dozen complete meals multiplied by at least five hundred people, and all the usual expenses of an uninhibitedly extravagant wedding. Ileana’s parents were too busy washing dishes at the back of the hall to contemplate the cost and consider what labor-saving alternatives the money might have purchased. Perhaps Petru’s beautifully constructed haystacks will continue to be made without tractors, mechanical mowers and balers for a few more years. Before the dance was over, Kathleen drove Petru back to the house for the morning milking. Undoubtedly, having attempted unsuccessfully to fatten all his fellow villagers, he fed his animals the priceless grass he’d cut the day before.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 07:01 PM

September 24, 2007

Bruegel's Seasons.

Bruegel’s seasons and hay on the walls of Prague.

 Bruegel. Haymaking [detail]. 1565.With the dozens of medieval seasonal scything scenes in mind, a recent viewing of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s harvest painting a few blocks up Fifth Avenue from the Morgan Library stimulated a peculiar compulsion to see all five of the brillian Bruegel suite of seasons in a single summer. This entailed a pleasant trip to Prague, where, earlier this year, the greatest haymaking scene of all was moved into the city from a less convenient suburban castle. The other three are also reasonably close to Prague in the grand Viennese Kunsthistorisches Museum, which houses huge roomfuls other Bruegel masterpieces. And the Prague visitor whose vision is honed for the hay habit will find several other scythes on the walls of that great city.

Bruegel’s “Months,” as they are conventionally called, are seen by scholars as a logical extension of the illustrated manuscript calendars that preceded them for four hundred years and especially of the Simon Bening landscapes from earlier in the sixteenth century. There remains uncertainty about the number of paintings originally in the cycle and indeed precisely which months the survivors represent. Iain Buchanan’s thoughtful essay in the Burlington Magazine (August 1990, pp. 541-550) reviewed the arguments of earlier writers and concluded, based in part on the familiar iconography of seasonal rustic activity, that Haymaking represented June and July, and the Corn Harvest August and September. But the work and play in Bruegel’s landscapes are more varied than even those in the Bening’s most complex manuscript scenes (see our Morgan Library 3, below). They include secular Flemish folk references that were understandably absent from the sacred Books of Hours. Buchanan’s useful table of Labors of the Months in seven calendar cycles from the Bening Workshop (p. 550) shows Haymaking invariably as the July activity, confirming our own observations about mowing in the Morgan Library Flemish calendars. But he fails to note additional evidence for June-July as Bruegel’s months of hay, notably that June, not July, was the most common mowing month in the French manuscript calendars.

Based on manuscript conventions and images of Flemish folklore, Buchanan persuasively argues that the three famous Vienna paintings Return of the Herd, Hunters in the Snow, and Gloomy Day, were originally devoted respectively to October-November, December-January, and February-March, and that the missing painting probably represented April and May. Here is the trio representing October through March, forming a kind of brilliant triptych as they now hang together in the main Bruegel Gallery in the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Bruegel. Return of the Herd. 1565.  Bruegel. Hunters in the Snow. 1565. Bruegel. Gloomy Day. 1565.

Separated by several thousand miles, an ocean and a continent, the summer months ought to hang together like this, as they originally did in the villa of the wealthy Antwerp merchant, Niclaes Jongelinck, for whom they were painted.

Bruegel. Haymaking. 1565. Bruegel. Corn Harvest. 1565.

This natural summer pair were separated about half their lives ago. The harvest scene was taken west first to Paris as Napoleonic plunder, and then, just after the first World War, to the Metropolitan Museum where it now hangs, not particularly prominent in that vast complex of incomparable examples from every place and period. Haymaking moved east and remained in aristocratic collections until the Soviet era, when it became part of the Czech national collections, before returning to the Lobkowicz family after the velvet revolution. For more than a decade, the family kept it in a castle about 20 kilometers upriver from Prague, but it has now been made the most prominent object in the so-called “Princely Collections” in the Lobkowicz Palace, just inside the gates of the Prague Castle complex itself. Here are some of the promotional materials for the princely palace, all using Bruegel’s rustic hay landscape as the featured attraction.

Ticket and guide to Lobkowicz Palace, Prague. Advertizing flier to Lobkowicz collection, found in a Prague restaurant. Banner outside Lobkowicz Palace.

Other mowers on the walls of Prague.

Near Prague Castle, on the same hill which dominates this magnificent city is the famous cathedral of St. Vitus. Most visitors troop by the south wall of the cathedral, some giving a cursory glance to the mosaic above the golden portal. But few pay much attention to the bronze gates across the portal, since they are mentioned in very few guide-books. But to the alert hay enthusiast who has just emerged from the Bruegel shrine, the sculptures on the gates are instantly recognizable as modern versions of the ancient occupations of the seasons, each pairing a traditional rustic activity with a sign from the zodiac. The medieval themes are expressed in a vaguely modernist style. Indeed they were cast in 1955 by the Czech sculptor Jaroslav Horejc. A few of the twelve figures are shown at left below, followed by a detail showing June, a man sharpening his scythe, with the sign of cancer, and July a drinking scyther with a woman bundling a sheaf and, above her, a remarkable aerial view of a field of stooks.

Horejc. Bronze gate. St. Vitus Cathedral. 1955. Horejc. Bronze gate. St. Vitus Cathedral. 1955.  Horejc. Bronze gate. St. Vitus Cathedral. 1955.

Down in medieval Prague across the river, a crowd gathers near the old town hall at the top of every hour, to watch the parade of figures emerge from one of Europe’s most complicated clocks. Just beneath the clock is a large circular zodiac, and by each sign, yet another version of the labor of each month. While the famous clock was built at the time of Bruegel, the calendar was created in the nineteenth century by the Czech painter Josef Manes. At the top of the calendar, look for the lion and crab signs, for July and June. Just outside them are respectively grain reapers and haymakers.

Town Hall Clock, Prague. Manes. Seasonal Calendar, Town Hall, Prague. 19th century.

Manes. July and June, Seasonal Calendar, Town Hall, Prague. 19th century.  Manes. July and June, Seasonal Calendar, Town Hall, Prague. 19th century.

A few blocks away, murals with agricultural scenes, also by Josef Manes, incongruously cover the façade of a neo-Renaissance building that once housed the V J Rott iron-mongers’ business. The Rott building now houses crystal and jewelry stores. A man with a scythe and a woman with a rake reflect the familiar rustic gender themes. Finally, in the basement of the Prague Municipal Building, a treasure-house of early twentieth century murals and stained glass by Mucha and others, a mosaic by Jacub Obrovsky glows with the colors of a Bohemian harvest scene. Not it isn’t hay, but the man with the scythe justifies its presence here.

 Manes. Man with scythe, V J Rott Building, Prague. Manes. Woman with rake, V J Rott Building, Prague. Obrovsky. Harvest in Bohemia, Municipal Building, Prague. C. 1912.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:42 PM

September 20, 2007

Mowing at the Morgan Library 1.

Mowing motifs in months of Morgan manuscripts.

 Book of Hours, June [detail, M92]. 1225-49.The Morgan Library in New York City has one of the great medieval manuscript collections in the world. Within it is one of the world’s great collections of Books of Hours. And among their folios of illuminated calendars are dozens of illustrations of people, usually men, scything and sickling hay and grain harvests, accompanied, not in the fields but on the folios, by strange symbols that look like crabs or lobsters (cancer, the sign for June) or lions (Leo for July). The occupational and symbolic sequence is common enough that a quick trip on the Morgan’s outstanding online catalog “Corsair” (signifying the library of John Pierpont the capitalist or the Henry the pirate?), in search of “June occupations” discovers over 40 manuscripts with mowers in their medallions or margins.  Book of Hours, June [detail, M6]. 1475-85.French folios have mowing most often in June; and the Flemish, German and English folios, perhaps reflecting a more northerly haymaking season, have the scythe in the following month. Only once does the scythe, perhaps due to error or eccentricity, appear as late as August. The sickle, often with yellow grain crops, parallel stalks and more linear sheaves, is almost always on the folio following the scythe. Clearly the convention was for grain to follow hay in the agricultural and liturgical cycle. But a few cataloging lapses by the Morgan archivists have the scythe harvesting “grain,” perhaps trivial in their more lofty contexts, but significant in (H)ours.

I hope that my own virtual harvest of the manuscript paintings and their systematic stacking in the hayinart database will illuminate iconographic distinctions in style and content. I have arranged them below in three sections roughly corresponding to centuries and stylistic shifts: the first showing conformity to the image of a single, simplified figure in a pose which is almost ideographic; the second reflecting rudimentary landscape themes and an emerging use of perspective; and the third celebrating complex agricultural and social activity. Each example has a pair of illustrations: an image on the page among other decorations of the text and the same image in isolation. The captions, sources and dates can be found by passing your cursor over the image. I hope that these juxtapositions will illuminate both the variety and consistency of this theme. To view the originals in their manuscript contexts, I recommend a virtual visit to the Morgan Library’s own splendid site .

Book of  Hours, July [detail, M452]. 1525-40.

I have also interspersed, for comparison, a few famous Books of Hours, that somehow escaped the Morgan appetite for acquisition.

Mowing at the Morgan 1: 12th to 14th century scythes as simple symbols.

The earliest collection of seasonal activities in the Corsair catalog appears to be German, a 12th century Weingarten manuscript, in which the June occupation is hoeing. Scything hay is shown here on the July folio. The pose, scyther turning to the left, scythe pointing to the right, would be repeated, with varying degrees of stylization over the next two centuries.

 Hainricus Sacrista. Gradual, Sequentiary, and Sacramentary, July [M711]. 1225-1250. Hainricus Sacrista. Gradual, Sequentiary, and Sacramentary, July [M711 detail]. 1225-1250.

In this French Psalter from about 1230, the mowing scene is in June. The Morgan record falsely calls the scythe a sickle.
 Psalter, Hours, June [M153]. 1228-1234.Psalter, Hours, June [detail, M153]. 1228-1234.

In another June page from a French Psalter of the same period, from the Soissons Workshop, like the mowers above and below, this figure seems almost to be floating above the blade of his scythe.
 Psalter, June [M283]. 1229-46.Psalter, June [detail, M283]. 1229-46.

In this early thirteenth century Book of Hours, the June page shows a man with a scythe conforming to the earlier iconographic conventions of mowing hay, although the Morgan record, perhaps influenced by the simple regularity of the stalks, calls it grain.

Book of Hours, June [M92]. 1225-49. Book of Hours, June [detail, M92]. 1225-49.

A Flemish Psalter from mid thirteenth century Bruges has the scythe on the July page. The pose of the mower differs from its predecessors: the scythe is held higher to the left, and the figure stands, incongruously, in front of a gothic structure. August has a sickle being used on a much more regular crop, signifying grain. The June page before the one illustrated here shows a man carrying wood .

Psalter, Calendar, July [M106]. 1250-70.Psalter, Calendar, July [detail, M106]. 1250-70

In this late thirteenth century Dutch Psalter from Utrecht, June has someone picking flowers ; July, here, mowing hay; and August a sickle cutting grain.

 Psalter, Calendar, July [M113]. 1250-99. Psalter, Calendar, July [detail, M113]. 1250-99.

In the Grosbois Psalter, a Flemish manuscript from 1261, June's occupation is picking fruit . July has the scythe and August the sickle .

 Grosbois Psalter,  July [M440]. 1261.Grosbois Psalter,  July [detail, M440]. 1261.

Two French Psalters from the 1260s have the scythe in June. For the second, the Morgan has grain harvest, but the month and tool imply hay.

Psalter, Hours, July [M183]. 1275-94. Psalter, Hours, July [detail, M183]. 1275-94. Psalter, Hours, June [M97]. 1260s.Psalter, Hours, June [detail, M97]. 1260s.

In this Flemish Psalter, June's worker is picking flowers . The scythe, as usual, is on the July page, and August has the sickle .

Psalter, Hours, July [M183]. 1275-94.Psalter, Hours, July [detail, M183]. 1275-94.

In another Flemish Psalter from the 1270s probably done by the Tweede Groepe of Ghent, the June folio shows a man carrying wood. July has a man with a scythe in a Gothic architectural frame. His pose is innovative, facing to the right, but less dynamic than most of his contemporaries. August a man cutting grain with a sickle .

 Psalter, July [M72]. 1270s.Psalter, July [detail, M72]. 1270s.

Two late thirteenth century French manuscripts, the first a Psalter, the second a Breviary, both have scything as the June activity.

Psalter, Hours of Yolande de Soissons, June [M729]. 1275-99.  Psalter, Hours of Yolande de Soissons, June [detail, M729]. 1275-99. Breviary, June [M1042]. 1285-92. Breviary, June [detail, M1042]. 1285-92.

London is given as the probable source of the DuBois Book of Hours from the early fourteenth century. June, according to the Morgan caption, has a man weeding grass with a weed extractor ! The July folio has an uncomfortably posed, crudely painted man scything grass.

DuBois Hours, July [M700]. 1320-35.DuBois Hours, July [detail, M700]. 1320-35.

Two French manuscripts from the late fourteenth century show a man with a scythe in June. The medallions in which these figures are posed are identical in shape, but the backgrounds are very different, the first a geometric basket weave, the second a conventional field of grass against a fleur-de-lys pattern.

Breviary, June [M75]. 1350-74. Breviary, June [detail, M75]. 1350-74. Book of Hours, June [M264]. 1395-1400.Book of Hours, June [detail, M264]. 1395-1400.

Medieval Mowers beyond the Morgan.

A sampler of medieval mowers from beyond the Morgan Library, lacking, alas, the Morgan’s meticulous consistency, at least concerning date and authorship.

Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.

The 11th century manuscript allegedly depicts October(!) farmers gathering hay with scythes and pitchforks. Supposedly in the British Library but no MS number is supplied at the source web-site . The 12th century English manuscript showing two men scything is in the Glasgow University Library .

Calendar for October, 11th century English manuscript.  Ms Hunter 229 f4r. 12th century.

Thirteenth century.

Two useful items were culled from godecookery , both tantalizingly lacking in reliable background information: a mower with his scythe: the month of June, from the Canterbury Calendar. c1280, MS Corpus Christi College 285; and an undated image with the erroneous caption “Harvesting Grain”. We claimed it for the hayinart corpus because of the raking woman and the scything man, but it is certainly much later than the other image, possibly from the 15th century.

June. From the Canterbury Calendar. c1280. Harvesting grain. No date. No source.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 09:43 PM | Comments (2062)

Mowing at the Morgan Library 2.

Mowing at the Morgan 2: 15th century rustic landscape description.

Two French Books of Hours from the early fifteenth century show less stylized more animated figures, recognizable rural landscapes, trees adding interest to the hayfield and giving a sense of depth to the image.

Fastolf Book of Hours, June [M27]. 1415-35. Fastolf Book of Hours, June [detail, M27]. 1415-35. Book of Hours: June [M1000]. 1415-25.Book of Hours: June [detail, M1000]. 1415-25.

Two more French Books of Hours from the same period. The first, by the so-called Master of Morgan, has the mower conventionally in June. Although the landscape is still stylized, the texture of grass in the foreground, the smooth horizon and the blue sky beyond suggest rudimentary perspectival depth. The second, remarkably, is in August, an unusually late month for the scythe, and in this crowded mowing scene the scythers seem to be working at cross purposes!

Book of Hours, June [M453]. 1420-35. Book of Hours, June [detail, M453]. 1420-35. Book of Hours, August [M64]. 1425-35.Book of Hours, August [detail, M64]. 1425-35.

Another two French Books of Hours from the 1430s, the first adopting what appears to be the new convention of field, horizon and sky. The second mowing scene is described in the Morgan note as a grain harvest. This is unlikely, not simply because of the month and the scythe, but also the soft green color of the crop. The dark complexion of the mower in the latter is interesting but probably incidental. A new level of realism is evident here, in the sturdy pose of the scyther, the twist of the grass over his blade and the two figures in the background.

Book of Hours, June [M359]. 1430-35. Book of Hours, June [detail, M359]. 1430-35. Book of Hours, June [M358]. 1435-55.Book of Hours, June [detail, M358]. 1435-55.

Two June pages from French Books of Hours of the 1460s show the emergence of swathes or windrows of mown grass serving as decorative devices. The positions and shapes of the image in relation to the texts are almost identical, and the compositions are also similar. However, the second is vastly more sophisticated than the first, in the dynamic posture of the mower, the curved rhythms of the grass which seem to echo his actions, and the delicately depicted chateau in the background.

 Hours of Pierre de Bosredont, June [G77]. 1460s. Hours of Pierre de Bosredont, June [detail, G77]. 1460s.

 Book of Hours: June [M1003]. 1460s. Book of Hours: June [detail, M1003]. 1460s.

A pair of anomalies: a French Book of Hours, the scyther is on the July folio and, conventional in sequence if not month, a sickle and grain harvest follows in August ; and a Flemish manuscript from the same period with the scythe in June (note the peculiar centipede-like crab), not July as is conventional for the more northerly region. The crudeness of the figure has much in common with those of a century before.

Book of Hours, July [M28]. 1460s. Book of Hours, July [detail, M28]. 1460s.  Book of Hours, June [M285]. 1465-1475. Book of Hours, June [M285]. 1465-1475.

In its description of the first of these two manuscripts by Jean Colombe, the Morgan record calls the crop grain, but the scythe and the month imply hay. The roughly sketched mower is given far less care than the flowery interweave which surrounds him. But the second landscape is remarkable; two figures gesturally distinct and overlapping, cut grass lying between them; and beyond a row of trees shrunken by distance, a lake, and a range of mountains each set behind the other with a hint of atmospheric perspective to add to the sense of depth.

 Hours of Jean Robertet, June [M834]. 1465-1475.  Hours of Jean Robertet, June [detail, M834]. 1465-1475. Hours of Anne of France, June [M677]. 1470-80.Hours of Anne of France, June [detail, M677]. 1470-80.

Two more anomalies, one Spanish, the other Flemish. A 15th century Spanish manuscript from the workshop of Juan de Carrion of Burgos has an unusual sequence of monthly occupations: June has a sickle and harvest , while July, shown here, has the scythe. In a Flemish Book of Hours by Jean Marmion, the mower seems to be dancing across the hay with a grace that rivals the Limbourg haymakers in Les Tres Riches Heures (see below). The hay page, anomalous for Flanders, is June not July. While the Spanish and Flemish manuscripts are of the same vintage, their relative sophistication is dramatically different.

 Hours of Infante Don Alfonso of Castile, July [M854]. 1465-80.  Hours of Infante Don Alfonso of Castile, July [detail, M854]. 1465-80. Book of Hours, June [M6]. 1475-85.Book of Hours, June [detail, M6]. 1475-85.

Two late 15th century French Books of Hours, the first from the Chief Associate of Maitre Francois and the second from the workshop of Jean Bourdichon, both have the conventional scything activity for June. The latter figure is squeezed into a small marginal frame surrounded by the fruits and flowers of the season.

Chief Associate of Maitre Francois. Book of Hours, June [M231]. 1480-95. Chief Associate of Maitre Francois. Book of Hours, June [detail, M231]. 1480-95. Jean Bourdichon workshop. Book of Hours, June [M380]. 1485-95.Jean Bourdichon workshop. Book of Hours, June [detail, M380]. 1485-95.

In this Cambrai manuscript, sheep are sheared on the cancer folio, hay, as is typical of Flemish Books of Hours, is mowed in July (shown here), and grain is threshed with a flail in August . Each of these occupational images is a study in greys, quickly sketched.

 Book of Hours, July [M1053]. 1490-1500. Book of Hours, July [detail, M1053]. 1490-1500.

More manuscript mowers beyond the Morgan: Fifteenth century.

June and July, from a 15th century French manuscript in Keble College, Oxford, reproduced from the cover of Kristian Sotriffer’s 1990 monograph, Heu und Stroh; and June from the DeGrey Book of Hours, a 15th century Flemish treasure in the National Library of Wales .

June and July. French manuscript. 15th century. June. DeGrey Book of Hours. 15th century.

The Getty Center’s fine collection of Books of Hours is well represented on its web-site . But, while the Morgan has generously reproduced all of its medieval manuscripts and provided high resolution details of the images thereon, the Los Angeles museum has been selective, skipping most of the calendar pages in favor of those with religious themes and leaving the illustrations unexpanded and indistinct. Here are two examples, the first from the workshop of the Master of Rohan, the second by Willem Vrelant of Flanders. Both the French manuscript, dated about 1415, and the Flemish, about 50 years later, have June mowing scenes next to the sign of the crab.

Man mowing, cancer (MS. 22. Fol.6). 1515-20. Man mowing, cancer (MS. Ludwig IX 8, fol 6). 1560s.

The June (cancer) and July (leo) pages from a Book of Hours in the Musee du Moyen-Age, Cluny .

Juin. Calendrier d'un Livre d'Heures a l'usage de Coutances. 15th century. Juli. Calendrier d'un Livre d'Heures a l'usage de Coutances. 15th century.

Two thumbnail images from the Bridgeman Archive barely hint at the quality of their sources. The first is a haymaking and woodcutting scene by Robinet Testard (fl 1475-1523) from the Hours of Charles d'Angouleme, about 1480, allegedly showing an unconventional combination of activities, including, presumably, a second hay crop. The other, a June haymaking scene in the Musee Conde, Chantilly, (Ms 340/603 f9.3), is perplexing as to date. The artist is alleged to be Pietro de Crescenzi (1230-c1320), but Bridgeman dates the image to the fifteenth century, wildly inconsistent but stylistically more plausible. The June frame, barely legible as a mower, is second from the left on the middle row.

October. Hours of Charles d'Angouleme, Ms Lat 1173. c1480. June. Ms 340/603 f9.3. 15th century?

The spartacus schoolnet website gives as the source for the first of these image the 'Fastolf Master's' Book of Hours. Perhaps the cited artist is confused with the Fastolf Master (or Master of Sir John Fastolf, prototype of Shakespeare's Falstaff), who worked in fifteenth century France and whose work we have already seen above in a Morgan manuscript. According to Grove the Fastolf Master flourished between about 1420 and 1460, obviously inconsistent with the date given for this image, but more consistent as to style. The second is from a July page in the British Library , the annotation of which probably gets the crop wrong. The use of the sickle, as we have seen, almost always implies grain not hay.

Book of Hours, c. 1250??.  Calendar page for July. Before 1500.

Two Flemish manuscript pages from the late fifteenth century: the first, from the British Library , shows haymaking in June; the second, by Gerard Horenbout (1465-1541), from the Book of Hours of Joanna of Castile shows July.

Flemish manuscript. June. 1496-1506. Book of Hours of Joanna of Castile: Calendar page for July.

 Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, June. 1440.Here is the climax of haymaking as illumination. Perhaps the most famous of all Books of Hours, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg Brothers celebrates June with a wonderful haymaking scene in a meadow by the Seine and the city of Paris. The year of its production is thought to be 1440. Not until the beginning of the next century are there manuscript haymaking scenes which begin to compare with this masterpiece. Elsewhere on our site, we noted the appearance of this Limbourg scene on the cover of Umberto Eco’s Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, in which there is a relevant passage but no specific reference. "The cosmos of the early Middle Ages gave way to a universe which we could call scientific. Earlier, things had possessed a value not because of what they were but because of what they meant...Even Gothic figurative art, which was the highest point of allegorical sensibility, reflected the new climate. For alongside its vast symbolical ideations there were some pleasant little figures which reveal a freshness of feeling for nature and a close attention to objects." So this field of humble seasonal labor, in which the workers seem to dance rhythmically between their tasks, lies next to the wall of a Gothic Parisian palais of many spires. From the Virgin-like women in the foreground, the row of hay-piles, most primitive of edifices, curve back towards grand architecture, serving the twin needs of medieval allegory and Renaissance perspective.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 09:41 PM

Mowing at the Morgan Library 3.

Mowing at the Morgan 3: Rural narratives of the 16th century.

In the Flemish Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal by the Master of James IV of Scotland (the very name reflects remarkable cosmopolitanism!), complex haymaking detail is crowded into the lower margin of the July folio. June shows sheep-shearing . The Morgan dates straddle the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but the evident delight in the variety of activities, the appearance of women with rakes and forks, of draft animals, of haystacks with ladders, anticipate the rustic narratives of Bruegel.

Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal, July [M52]. 1495-1515. Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal, July [detail, M52]. 1495-1515.

Jean Poyet’s so-called Hours of Henry VIII, named for and possibly once owned by the polygamous Tudor monarch, was however created when the latter was under ten years old. The brilliantly sophisticated June scene has elements in common with the Limbourg's more famous work for the Duc du Berry, but rearranged. Three men scythe in rhythm at left; barefooted women use forks to rake the loose hay into cocks; the cart, with neither horse nor hay, stands by pollarded willows.

 Hours of Henry VIII, June: Mowing [H8]. 1495-1505.  Hours of Henry VIII, June: Mowing [detail, H8]. 1495-1505.

Robert Boyvin’s Book of Hours like Poyet’s is from the early sixteenth century France, but clumsy enough to warrant comparison not with his contemporary but with the work of an earlier generation.

Book of Hours, June [M261]. 1495-1512. Book of Hours, June [detail, M261]. 1495-1512.

May, showing a youth with a flower and lovers embracing, and June are on the same folio of this French manuscript by a follower of Jean Pichore; the Morgan caption mistakenly calls the scythe a sickle. To the right of this misnamed implement is a monstrous crab.

Book of Hours, May and June [M7]. 1490s. Book of Hours, June [detail, M7]. 1490s.

At the lower right corner of this mainly floral border of the June page of a French Book of Hours from about 1510 is a man scything, given far less importance than in other emerging narrative art of manuscripts of the same period. Indeed, the naturalism of the flowers serves to accentuate the crude retrogression of the mower’s depiction.

 Book of Hours, June [M250]. 1505-15.  Book of Hours, June [detail, M250]. 1505-15.

This early 16th century Paris manuscript by the Master of Morgan has a haymaking scene of rare detail, including scything, raking, and a well-painted haycock.

Book of Hours, June [M85]. 1505-25. Book of Hours, June [detail, M85]. 1505-25.

A most unusual sequence of months in a French Book of Hours by a follower of the Master of Petrarch’s Triumphs has sheep-shearing in June, playfully complicated by a flirtatious woman spinning wool, a woman wielding a sickle and a man bundling a sheaf in July , and another harvest scene, shown here, with scythes in August. Hay, alas, appears to be absent from all the summer pages, but at least there’s a donkey-sized dog in the August image.

Book of Hours, August [M632]. 1515-25. Book of Hours, August [detail, M632]. 1515-25.

In this handsomely illustrated French (Tours) manuscript by the Master of the Getty Epistles, every page has a charming narrative. June shows sheep being sheared by a woman while a man tries to distract her. This July scene shows hay being mowed by a scythe with a second man resting nearby. The August harvest scene , like the July scene described above, is anomalous in the gender division of labor: a woman is using the sickle, while her male companion sits on the ground binding a sheaf.

Book of  Hours, July [M452]. 1525-40. Book of  Hours, July [detail, M452]. 1525-40.

The haymaking and harvesting scenes in the famous Da Costa Hours by Simon Bening are equally documentary in their detail and exquisite in their execution. A full page, with no text, is dedicated to each activity. Because no close-ups of the salient details are necessary, both complete July and August folios are shown here.

DaCosta Hours, July [M399]. 1510-20. DaCosta Hours, August [M399]. 1510-20.

In this Bening Psalter, done a decade or so later than the Da Costa Hours, June shows sheep being sheared . July has the scythe and August the sickle , but the Morgan caption falsely assumes that July has grain not hay. The July page, shown here is typical. The visual narrative has been relegated again to the margins, but the position of the text implies that it is covering up a wealth of other rustic detail.

Book of  Hours, July [M451]. 1531. Book of  Hours, July [detail, M451]. 1531.

Medieval Mowers beyond the Morgan.

Sixteenth century.

The Grimani Breviary , now in Venice but created in the Low Countries at the beginning of the 16th century, and a New York Public Library Book of Hours from the same period, both devote whole pages to the art of haymaking.

 Breviary. 1490-1510. June. Book of Hours. Spencer Collection Ms. 006. c1500.

The Getty Center in Los Angeles also has a fine collection of Books of Hours, and most of them are well represented on the Getty web-site. But, while the Morgan has generously reproduced every folio of its medieval manuscripts, the Getty has been selective, tending to skip most of the calendar pages in favor of those with religious themes. Exceptional is the treatment of the Spinola Hours from the Flemish workshop of the Master of James IV of Scotland. All the zodiac leaves have been digitized, including the July mowing scene next to the lion sign.

Leo, Spinola Hours. 1510-20.  Leo, Spinola Hours [detail]. 1510-20.

Bening hay scenes in the British Library.

Among the several manuscripts attributed to the Flemish artist Simon Bening are this July haymaking scene , with men mowing and women raking, from 1510-1525, and the famous Golf Book from about a decade later. Two scenes from the Golf Book are shown below: Hunting and haymaking; and an interesting marginal hay cart with a pole to hold down the load.

July. Calendar Miniature. 1510-1525. Golf Book. Calendar scene for July. 1520-1530. Golf Book. Haycart. 1520-1530.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 09:36 PM

October 27, 2006

Maramureş 1. Introduction.

Introduction: making a dream landscape real.
[Note: captions to the illustrations can be viewed by holding the cursor arrow over the image. Except where noted, the photographs were taken by Alan Ritch in September 2006.]

Dan Dinescu. Maramureş landscape. 2005.Dan Tataru. Lines and houses. 2005.

How could I resist the persuasive testimony of so many friends and hay-lovers who claimed that the Maramureş region of northwestern Romania was hay heaven? Conscious that cultural change was inevitable and possibly imminent, especially in view of Romania’s apparent intention to join the EU, my wife Margaret and I traveled to Maramureş in September, 2006. We wanted to confirm the reality of the dream-like haystack-covered hillsides, we’d seen in magazines, guide-books and innumerable online websites.

I’d already added about 200 Maramureş images to my own hayinart database, thanks to the vision and talent of such photographers as Kathleen McLaughlin , Davin Ellicson , Dan Dinescu (his autumnal hay is shown at left above), Dan Tataru (one of his magical winter scenes is at right above), Kosei Miya , Anamaria Iuga , and many others. I’d gained useful insights into the region’s historical, artistic, and anthropological context from art historian, Blue Guide author and intrepid tour leader Caroline Juler, the French architectural scholar Jean Soum (whose pictorial essay on Maramureş rightly considers its haystacks a form of vernacular architecture), a favorite Romanian ex-patriate Andrei Codrescu , and several illustrated emails from ethnographer Anamaria Iuga. And I’d been infected with enthusiasm for the place, its people and their hay-making practices by my first Romanian hay-mate, Anamaria Iuga.

One name appears in all three of the preceding acknowledgments. Anamaria had been virtually introduced to me by Caroline Juler, in a friendly comment to hayinart in April 2006: “It's fantastic to come across this website after returning from north-west Romania where a friend of mine is studying the ethnography of hay in one particular Maramureş village. She has already written some great articles about it and is keen to make contacts with other people who know about traditions connected with haymaking around the world. My friend's name is Anamaria Iuga and both she and her parents are ethnographers with a particular interest in that region.”

IUGA: Identitate, Unitate, Generozitate, Acţiune.

 Anamaria Iuga. The way of hay, Şurdeşti. 2005. Ana, Dumitru and Georgeta Iuga, Baia Mare. 2006.

To my delight, an email from “Ana” arrived the same week, and we began an instantly affectionate conversation about our mutual enthusiasm. She sent me her articles and several fine photographs, with the modest and inaccurate disclaimer that they were documentary not artistic (hayinart repeatedly undermines this dichotomy!) and fascinating accounts of local mythology. She wants to write a book with a clever title which I wish I’d invented but which apparently comes from Caroline: “The Way of Hay” (the small image above does not do justice to Ana's fine cover illustration). Her focus is hay folklore from the single village of Şurdeşti, famous for having the highest wooden steeple in Europe, and she is amused by my antic, dilettantic ambitions, aspiring to cover the whole world of hay from as many perspectives as possible. Her parents, Dumitru, a poet and philosopher and Georgeta, an artist and anthropologist, both eminent activists in the cause of cultural preservation, live in a small Baia Mare apartment, their shelf-lined walls overflowing with books and journals (see above right). Parallel virtual conversations with Ana, Caroline, and Kathleen McLaughlin, with whom I’d been corresponding for over two years increased my determination to visit their favorite place. The eloquence of Caroline’s brilliant prose and Kathleen’s equally brilliant photography were irresistible. That Caroline and Kathleen were already close friends with each other reinforced by social serendipity a sense of travel destiny.

Geographic variations on a common theme.

Moldovan haystacks.Ziffer. Landscape at Nagybanya with haystacks, 1915.

Our database of over five thousand images and the world gazetteer of a hundred and fifty hay places illustrate the astonishing geographic variety of forms created by those who have to dry damp grass just enough to make nutritious fodder and to stack it in durable shapes which must resist the wind and wet weather. The dualism of hay making and hay stacking, the first maximizing exposure to the sun and air to reduce its moisture, the second minimizing exposure to the weather to protect it, is imperfect, blurred by uncertainty during the drying process into a structural continuum. Traditionally the grass is successively laid flat by scythers, tossed by tedders, and then lifted from the ground into heaps or onto stakes or racks or tripods and finally onto domed stacks as high as a long fork can reach. So, after it is cut, the hay must first welcome the sun and then shed potential rain. But industrialization of the process, as we have shown in the Wales to Wisdom essay , has virtually eliminated geographic variety, simplified form and minimized uncertainty. Hay is baled in massive bundles too heavy to handle. Where the crop is moist or the sky cloudy, the bales are wrapped in plastic which ferments their contents into sticky fodder. By the end of the twentieth century, vernacular variations from industrial conformity, at least in Europe, had been pushed upwards into mountain meadows inaccessible to modern machines and eastward into regions unable to afford them. This essay, in nine parts, celebrates one of the last of these traditional hay-making regions, attempting virtual preservation, since its actual survival is unlikely beyond the near future.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 04:15 PM | Comments (1)

Maramureş 2. Vernacular variations.

The vernacular diversity of the Maramureş hayscape.

What makes the Maramureş hayscape so remarkable is the survival not just of one vernacular style but the juxtaposition of several. Paradoxically, for millennia, this area has been both crossroads and frontier, accessible enough to armies from the west and south and hordes from the east to push its boundaries and beleaguered occupants back and forth, to leave alien words on its maps and in its dialects, and diverse customs and beliefs in its folklore and its churches. Somehow, the Maramureş cultural core has persisted at the remote fringes of many empires: Roman, Ottoman, Hapsburg, Magyar, Russian, Soviet, and Ceausescuan. Before the end of the first world war, it was part of Hungary; soon after joining Romania, it lost its lands north of the Tisza to that part of Ruthenian Czechoslovakia which now belongs to Ukraine. Clearly visible across the river, more heavily forested Ukrainian Maramureş appears to lack the delightful patchwork quality of what remains south of the border and what we celebrate here.

From a single vantage point, overlooking the rolling hills between the Cosau and Mara valleys, we can still witness the polyglot vernacular of medieval haymaking in its charming diversity. If the artifacts are, as Caroline Juler eloquently describes them, “humanoid,” they range from ectomorphs to endomorphs, grown on wooden skeletons that range from skinny ragged stakes to tall, robust poles. Heavier grass draped on racks and hurdles has a more zoomorphic quality; and when the hurdles lean together the result resembles a primitive thatched hut, the drying hay pressing its claim irresistibly as a species of vernacular architecture.

Stacks and haycocks, Cosau Valley, 2006. Stacks and haycocks, Cosau Valley, 2006.

Stacks and haycocks, Şurdeşti, 2006.Stacks near Breb, 2006.

Stacks and haycocks, Cosau Valley, 2006. Stacks and haycocks, Cosau Valley, 2006.

Most of these shapes have historical and geographical cousins: the beehive-shapes along the Danube on the two-thousand year old column commemorating Trajan’s Dacian conquests ; stacks and haymakers in medieval Books of Hours , and in paintings by Bruegel , Rubens, Fattori , Pissarro , Gauguin, Nolde, Morandi, and Heade; photographs of Ireland, Scandinavia and the Balkans , Tuscany and the Tyrol. The Austrian art historian Kristian Sotriffer, roaming widely from his Viennese base, developed a morphological taxonomy of these hay structures (Heu und Stroh, 1990). Had he visited Maramureş, he would have been able both to complicate his categories and to find a continent’s worth of shapes in a single geomorphic basin.

Wooden structures: poles and racks.

Stakes and soprons in the Iza Valley, 2006.Hayracks near Barsana, 2006. Hayracks near Ieud, 2006.

Wooden tools: rakes and forks.
As deeply satisfying as the landscape of hay structures are the hand-made wooden tools which shape it. The rakes and forks of Maramureş are wonderfully similar to those in medieval illuminations; the simple poles used to carry mounds of hay towards the larger stacks can be seen in Pissarro’s paintings of Eragny , a nineteenth century sheet music illustration, and Emerson’s photographs of East Anglia; the make-shift log platforms that raise the stacks from the damp ground recall the nineteenth century staddles of Quebec and New England; the metal blades, an Iron Age invention, although reflecting alien manufacture and material, sustain the scythe’s centuries-old utility, reflected in its ancient iconic significance as a symbol of death. Of all the wooden tools the one which epitomizes for me the simplicity and strength of local haymaking traditions is the “furcoi” – the long fork which can reach to the top of the highest stack, far above the range of the shorter “furca.” It is selected from a straight sapling divided at its end into two or three sturdy branches, which, when stripped, cured and polished, become primitive but effective tines, capable of holding as large a bundle of hay as a strong man can lift.

Woman carrying wooden tools, Şurdeşti, 2006.Rake and fork, Şurdeşti, 2006. Georghe Fat using a long fork (furcoi), Şurdeşti, 2006.

Scythes and stones.

Berci family scythes, Sârbi, 2006.Scythe blades, Ocna Sugatag market, 2006. Scythe honing stones, Ocna Sugatag market, 2006.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

Maramureş 3. September's second cut.

A sunny September’s second cut.

Most of the hay in this region, as in most of the northern hemisphere, is made in June and July, after the melted snow and spring rains have grown grass and flowers to a suitable height. In some years, given enough summer rains and September sun, there is time for a second cut. Fortunately for us, in 2006, August was very wet, and our visit the following month coincided with brilliant sunshine. So we were able not simply to gaze on grand scenery of serenely static stacks, but to participate in the activity of haymaking, witnessing the prehistoric process in all its phases, the shaping of an ephemeral landscape and its temporary structures, and the application of ancient tools by people who seemed not just to tolerate our enthusiasm but to welcome it.

Stacks and apples, Şurdeşti, 2006.Stacks and haycocks near Breb, 2006. Stacks and haycocks near Breb, 2006.

Stack and hayrack, Danesti, 2006.Stacks and haycocks near Breb, 2006. Stacks and haycocks near Breb, 2006.

Stick figures in the hayscape: what Romanians call germans.
Ana informed us that the skinny humanoid stacks that seem to march across the fields are called "germans." My Romanian dictionary indicates that the Romanian for German is indeed German!

Germans near Breb, 2006.Germans near Breb, 2006. Romanian and german near Breb, 2006.

At dawn on the first morning of our visit to Surdesti, we heard, rising from the orchard beyond our window, the rhythmic swish of scythe against grass and the distinctive song of the honing stone. I stared down from our balcony, and the mower paused to stare back up at me, before reaching his blade under branches bent almost to the ground by their burden of plums.
Scyther, Şurdeşti, 2006.Scythers, Şurdeşti, 2006. Scything under a plum tree, Şurdeşti, 2006.

The sun rose, crossing a clear blue sky in its autumnal arc, casting a golden light, enough warmth to dry the grass, and enough shadows to give definition to the drama of the work. Our stay coincided perfectly with this brilliant haying weather, and clouds did not return until the day we left.

Tedding near Breb, 2006.Making tall Germans, Surdesti, 2006. Making tall Germans, Surdesti, 2006.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)

Maramureş 4. Religious interludes.

Religious interludes.

But on two of our days in Maramureş, in spite of this persistent optimal opportunity to dry and stack the hay and in spite of the apparently tireless energy of those who did the work, the fields were abandoned, first to observe the feast day of Santa Cruz (Sfânta Cruce) and then for the usual Sunday of rest. Piety trumped the practical imperative to make hay while the sun shone. Ana told us a local legend on the price of non-observance. A farmer who made hay on Saint Peter’s Day saw his stacks turned to stone, and Ana showed us the proof: two cottage-sized rock formations on a hillside above Şurdeşti . So we too observed the feast of Santa Cruz, our own home town. And on Sunday we went to an Orthodox mass in an unorthodox, open-sided chapel above the Biserica of Sârbi. From here, during the moving but interminable and incomprehensible service, I could watch and worship, for several hours, the sun continuing its work alone in the half-cut hayfields across the valley.

Stone haystacks, Şurdeşti , 2006. Stone haystacks, Şurdeşti , 2006. Greek Orthodox Chapel, Sârbi, 2006.

Wooden churches.

We used the days of rest to make pilgrimages to several of the magnificent wooden churches for which this region is justifiably famous. Indeed the few foreign tourists we saw, while evidently indifferent to the holy hay, traveled from one biserica to another, admiring the remarkable carpentry and carving: soaring spires; delicately interwoven shingles on steeply graceful roofs; massively interlocked beams and tiny windows; and sculpted gateways profusely decorated with Christian and pagan elements.


Biserica, Şurdeşti , 2006.Wall, Biserica, Şurdeşti , 2006. Shake roof, Biserica, Şurdeşti , 2006.

Biserica, Ieud, 2006.Wall, Biserica, Ieud, 2006. Shake roof, Biserica, Ieud, 2006.

Botiza and Budeşti.
Biserica, Botiza, 2006.Biserica Sosana, Budeşti, 2006. Shake roof, Biserica Sosana, Budeşti, 2006.

 Biserica Yosana, Budeşti, 2006.Shake roof, Biserica Yosana, Budeşti, 2006. Shake roof, Biserica Yosana, Budeşti, 2006.

 Biserica, Sârbi, 2006.Shake roof, Biserica, Sârbi, 2006. Shake roof, Biserica, Sârbi, 2006.

The interiors were equally astonishing: rich in local rugs and tapestries; icons on glass; walls covered with narrative paintings on Biblical themes, often including lurid Last Judgment murals, with devils harrowing the damned, usually with scythes, sometimes with hay-rakes.

Isaac, Abraham and Jacob mural, Ieud, 2006.Last Judgment mural, Ieud, 2006. Last Judgment mural, Botiza, 2006.

For further reading on the wooden churches of Maramureş:
Ana Barca and Dan Dinescu. The wooden architecture of Maramureş. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1997. Many of the images in this handsomely designed book on the vernacular church and farm architecture of Maramures deliberately pose the less durable but equally iconic hay structures nearby, either as hill-covering patterns or as ephemeral shapes in graveyards and farmyards. Regrettably the captions rarely identify the locations and dates of the photographs, and so the reader can only assume that the stacks are everywhere during every season. Hard to find and expensive to buy. Fortunately, selections of text and illustration are online. Joby Patterson's Wooden churches of the Carpathians: a comparative study. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs, 2001, is more modest in scope and size than David Buxton’s magisterial The wooden churches of eastern Europe (Cambridge, 1981), but her monograph is nevertheless very valuable, especially since it covers the Maramureş region on both the Romanian and Ukrainian sides of the River Tisza boundary.

Crosses and carvings.
Here are some examples of the crosses and the carved wooden porches and gateways which mark the entrances to every churchyard and traditional farmyard.

Roadside crucifix, Berbeşti, 2006.Mourning figures at crucifix, Berbeşti, 2006.

Churchgate, Şurdeşti , 2006.Churchgate, Breb, 2006. Gateway, Breb, 2006.

Gatepost, Budeşti, 2006.Gatepost, near Berbeşti, 2006. Farmyard with decorated barn, Breb, 2006.

Woodcarving, carpet weaving: Toader Barsan, Barsana and Roxie the priest's daughter of Botiza.

Toader Barsan carving a cross, Barsana, 2006.Roxie the priest’s daughter on a rug, Botiza, 2006.

Making hay in graveyards: Sighet.
The graveyards of Maramureş, crowded with ancient, indecipherable headstones, often had enough space for small hayfields, and the stones and stacks, so different in their functions, seemed companionable and complementary in form. Two cemeteries were particularly striking. Close to the center of Sighet, a large field surrounded by high walls is the site of an ancient Jewish graveyard. Only half of it is occupied by headstones. Thousands of Sighet Jews expected to use the rest died elsewhere in the 1940s. Hay, of course, is grown on the ground they would have occupied.

Headstone and haystack, Surdesti, 2006.Headstones, Jewish cemetery, Sighet, 2006. Sopron, Jewish cemetery, Sighet, 2006.Haystacks, Jewish cemetery, Sighet, 2006.

Haystacks, sopron, Jewish cemetery, Sighet, 2006.Hayrack, sopron, Jewish cemetery, Sighet, 2006.

Making hay in the Merry Cemetery of Săpânţa.
A few miles to the west, along the River Tisza, we visited the more famous and much more cheerful cemetery at Săpânţa, where each grave is marked by an elaborately carved and brightly painted monument, illustrating the lives of those who lie there with light-hearted verses and a picture of their favorite activities. Not surprisingly, the various stages of hay-making were well represented in these paintings, the men usually with scythes and the women with rakes, often with descriptive backgrounds of windrows, cocks, or stacks. One depicted a sopron, the local hayshed, clearly enough to show peg-holes in the posts. At the edge of the picture gallery of this so-called Merry Cemetery, a real woman was raking real hay.

Grave markers, Săpânţa, 2006.Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006. Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006.

Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006.Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006. Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006.

Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006.Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006. Grave marker, Săpânţa, 2006.

Woman tedding in cemetery, Săpânţa, 2006.Woman tedding in cemetery, Săpânţa, 2006. Woman tedding in cemetery, Săpânţa, 2006.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

Maramureş 5. Making and stacking hay.

Making and stacking hay.

Around these holy intermissions, we watched the classic, secular narrative unfold. After the early morning scything, the flattened grass and flowers were left for several hours until the dew had left them. Then the tedders, women with rakes and men with forks, came to turn and toss the half-dried hay into loose windrows. By the end of the first day, if the air had been warm enough, these rows were consolidated into waist-high mounds. Damper weather or a denser crop, rich in broad-leafed herbs, would limit the rate of the mounding or the size of the mounds. Where the incipient hay was especially heavy, it was hung on the stakes and racks, raised from the moist ground, protected from the next night’s dew and shaped to shed unexpected showers. Drying strategies varied, in their details, from valley to valley, village to village, and meadow to meadow, according to subtle custom and conditions. When the hay was dry enough, the mounds were poled towards a platform made of logs and twigs, the imminent stack’s protective foundation, surrounding a tall pole, its supportive spine. The stacks took two or three hours to build.

Tedding near Berbeşti, 2006.Tedding near Breb, 2006.Boy in Spiderman shirt on stack near Calineşti, 2006.

The Făt Family of Daneşti.

We watched the Făt family build one of theirs on a hillside between their village of Daneşti and Ana’s Şurdeşti. Grandpa Vicentiu whom we’d seen working with his scythe earlier in the week, used a wooden fork to lift large clumps of still green plants meshed together by their hours in the rows and mounds, onto the staddle until the growing stack was shoulder high.

Vicentiu Făt with his scythe, Şurdeşti, 2006.Olga tedding, Şurdeşti, 2006. Măriuca and Olga cocking, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Măriuca and Olga cocking, Şurdeşti, 2006. Fat family raking, Surdesti, 2006.  Măriuca raking, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Then Grandma Olga climbed on top with a fork which she used to guide successive blocks of hay into their appointed places, dexterously maintaining her own balance and that of the symmetrical pile, stamping it into a consistent density, more compressed than the component forkfuls thrust up to her.

Vicentiu and Olga stacking, Şurdeşti, 2006. Vicentiu and Olga stacking, Şurdeşti, 2006.  Vicentiu and Olga stacking, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Vicentiu and Olga stacking, Şurdeşti, 2006. Vicentiu and Olga stacking, Şurdeşti, 2006.  Vicentiu and Olga stacking, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Vicentiu kept her busy and was himself kept busy by his daughters, Măriuca and Florica, repeatedly poling mounds to the base of the stack, and raking together residual mounds of the strands that were left. His grandsons, Andrei and Razvan, dressed in identical red and blue shirts with the “19” and “ Messi” on their backs, also helped, though with less consistent energy.

Olga on the stack, Şurdeşti, 2006.Andrei and Măriuca poling, Şurdeşti, 2006. Andrei and Razvan poling, Şurdeşti, 2006.

It was easy to befriend them, since I’d recognized their incongruous uniforms as the colors of Barcelona FC, club champions of Europe, and the name of Lionel Messi, the Argentinian soccer prodigy who’d migrated to Spain to make his fortune on grass far from his homeland.
Măriuca and her sons resting, Şurdeşti, 2006.Andrei holding fork, Şurdeşti, 2006. Razvan on stack, Şurdeşti, 2006.

After a couple of hours, when the stack was about ten feet tall, Vicentiu was joined in his heavy lifting by his son, Gheorghe, coming from his day job as a driving instructor, but evidently a strong and skillful user of the long furcoi, the best tool for lifting hay up to his mother, who by then was using a traditional rake to shape the dome as it began to taper in towards the central pole. When the stack had reached the furcoi’s limit and there was barely room for Olga to stand and stamp, Gheorghe lifted a large bundle of inferior hay, which had been left standing too long to maintain its sappy nutritive potential but long enough to create a straw-like texture, perfect for a rough, thatch-like roof. When this had been packed meticulously so that the stems sloped downwards, Vicentiu wove a tight wreath the size of a crown.

Vicentiu, Gheorghe and Olga building the stack, Şurdeşti, 2006.Vicentiu propping the stack, Şurdeşti, 2006.  Gheorghe lifting hay with furcoi, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Gheorghe lifting hay with furcoi, Şurdeşti, 2006.Olga arranging hay on stack, Şurdeşti, 2006. Vicentiu making wreath for the stack’s crown, Şurdeşti, 2006.

When I approached to look at it, I was shooed away, an unexpected breach of haying hospitality which evidently reflected the seriousness of this climactic moment. Balancing precariously on the summit, Olga took the wreath from the tines of the furcoi, placed it carefully over the tip of the central pole, and pushed it down so that it neatly plugged the last small space, sealing a potential conduit to protect the stack’s interior from the inevitable winter storms.
Wreath on furcoi, Şurdeşti, 2006.Olga taking wreath from furcoi, Şurdeşti, 2006. Olga placing wreath on central pole, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Since the top was now just beyond the ladder’s reach, Grandpa had to raise it off the ground, until Grandma’s feet were on the top rung. Then, effortlessly, he eased it down and braced it until she was safely off the structure they’d made together. The sun set on the final stage: Gheorghe’s carefully grooming every surface so that the stems pointed down, the better to shed the rain.
Olga climbs off stack, Şurdeşti, 2006.Gheorghe grooms stack, Şurdeşti, 2006. Finished stack at sunset, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

Maramureş 6. Architecture and husbandry.

The architecture and husbandry of Maramures hay.

We saw parts of this process repeated, with minor variations, weather-proofing domes of hay throughout Maramureş. In some fields the stacks were clustered like affectionate families; elsewhere they were scattered equidistantly.

Gate, staddle, stack, Cosau Valley, 2006.Stacking near Berbeşti, 2006.

 Stacking near Breb, 2006.Stacking near Breb, 2006.  Stacking near Breb, 2006.
Humanoid stacks near Breb, 2006. Humanoid stacks near Breb, 2006.

The soprons of Maramureş.
In the valleys of the Mara and Cosau, they were sheltered by adjustable wooden structures, hay-sheds with roofs that can be raised and lowered, known locally as soprons, in Hungary as aboras, and in the Netherlands, where our friend Wim Lanphen is tirelessly collecting every surviving example, as hooibergs. The Dutch brought them to Manhattan in the seventeenth century, and they were common in New England and as far south as Pennsylvania until the early twentieth century. They survive in Maramures both in the fields and near the farmyards, where they serve as fodder storage structures, from which the insatiable cows, confined in the milking sheds for most of the year, can be conveniently supplied.

Sopron, Berbeşti, 2006. Sopron, Berbeşti, 2006. Sopron, Calineşti, 2006.
 Sopron, Calineşti, 2006. Sopron, Sârbi, 2006. Sopron and animal shelter, Rozavlea, 2006.

Moving the Maramureş hay.
Anamaria Iuga estimates that three haystacks are enough to feed a single cow through the winter months. The rest are shared among the other livestock: the horses, oxen and buffalo that pull the summer wagons and winter sleds; the pigs that also convert squash and slops to protein; and the sheep that migrate with the seasons from the high pastures of summer to the winter valleys.

”Wagon, Wagon pulled by buffalo, Deseşti, 2006.
”Girl Wagon and handcart, Cosau Valley, 2006. Petru, Vasili and their wagon, Sârbi, 2006.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

Maramureş 7. Technology and culture.

Middens to mechanization: technology and culture.

The medieval hay landscapes of Maramureş are glorious relics, preserved and annually renewed by the hands and muscles of local farm families. The repetitive intensity of the work required, mowing, drying and stacking the hay with wooden tools, and transferring it successively with poles and wagons and sleds from fields to stacks and farmsteads, is unlikely to survive the temptations of labor-saving technology. Already the signs of cultural transition are evident: satellite dishes share wooden balconies with drying vegetables; washing machines save women from bitter visits to the traditional wooden whirl-pools in icy winter rivers; in-house plumbing may soon subvert the ubiquitous out-houses near the cowsheds; and middens in which human and animal waste are mixed may not survive international regulations, if and when Romania joins Europe.

Haysleds and middens.

Sleds, midden, Sârbi, 2006.Midden, Sârbi, 2006. Sleds, midden, Budeşti, 2006.

Maramureş farm food.

Petru milking, Sârbi, 2006. Corn crib, Sârbi, 2006. Squash for pigs, corn for mamaliga, Sârbi, 2006.

Cabbages, Sârbi, 2006. Cabbages, Budeşti, 2006. Onions, Budeşti, 2006.

Beans, Budeşti, 2006. Peppers, Botiza, 2006. Apples and abandoned house, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Oats for the animals only.
Kathleen McLaughlin has a fine image of oat-stook construction accompanied by an informative caption about staking and threshing oats, which, like the squash near the corn-crib above, are just for the animals.
Oat stooks, Sârbi, 2006. Oat stooks, Sârbi, 2006. Oats, threshing machine, watermill, Sârbi, 2006.

Maramureş public art.
Drying clothes, Budeşti, 2006.Drying clothes, Budeşti, 2006. Scarves, market bridge, Botiza, 2006.

Four men in their Sunday hats, Sarbi, 2006.Pot tree, Botiza, 2006. Ana’s pot tree, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Cultural transitions: bodies on wagons and on the ground.

Wagon carrying car body, Deseşti, 2006. Light switch, pot, woodstack, Sârbi, 2006.

Dish, drying beans, Sârbi, 2006. Mannikins, market, Ocna Sugatag, 2006.

Hay dolls and uncut grass around the plum-trees.
In the field surrounding the the country headquarters of the IUGA Foundation, dedicated to the preservation of rural traditions and decorated with dolls of twisted hay, we saw and heard the successor to the scythe cut down the grass and flowers far more rapidly and far more noisily than the latter ancient tool. Labor is saved, and the sweet song of the scythe drowned out by the new device. Above its racket, serving us hay-tea on the balcony of the wooden house, Anamaria observed that it was incapable of mowing around the plum trees’ trunks, where a fringe of uncut, wasted grass would reveal the evidence of progress.

Mechanized mowing, Şurdeşti, 2006. Mechanized mowing, Şurdeşti, 2006.

Hay dolls, IUGA Foundation, Şurdeşti, 2006. Ana, Toto, IUGA house, Şurdeşti , 2006.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 10:31 AM

October 26, 2006

Maramureş 8. The Baia Mare School.

Maramureş hay in art: the Baia Mare (Nagybanya) School.

Once the metropolis of Maramureş, Budapest is now of course in another country. But the Hungarian National Gallery preserves several paintings of Maramures hay from a century ago when several post-impressionists moved from the capital to the ancient mining town known as Nagybanya or Baia Mare. This art colony in the provinces had many 19th century precedents in western Europe and New England: the Barbizon school; Pissarro and Cezanne in Pontoise, Gauguin and Bernard in Brittany; the Hudson River School ; I Macchiaioli in rural Tuscany; and others. Each of these schools was inspired by nostalgia for a rural landscape that was already disappearing; many of their members found in the traditional haystack, a perfect symbol for agricultural ephemera. Those who took their easels into the villages and hayfields of Maramureş would have been pleased to see how much of the scenery would remain unchanged for another hundred years, continuing to inspire artists, craftspeople and photographers in the twenty-first century.

Bela Ivanyi Grunwald (1867-1940).

Drying clothes, 1903.Burning autumn, 1903

Simon Hollosy (1857-1918).

Haystacks, 1912.After the harvest, 1908.

Claie de fan.Nightfall.

Sandor Ziffer (1880-1962).

Landscape at Nagybanya with haystacks, 1915.Landscape, 1913.

Samu Bortsok (1881-1931), Janos Mattis Teutsch (1884-1960), Istvan Reti (1872-1945).

Bortsok. Farmhouse.Mattis Teutsch. Haycocks, c1916. Reti.  View of Nagybanya, 1918.

David Jandi and Imre Szobotka (1890-1961).

Jandi. Haystacks, 1925.Szobotka. Landscape at Nagybanya, c1930.

Twenty-first century continuity: Mariana Ionaitescu (1952- ), Silvia Boar, a Botiza rug.

Ionaitescu. Haystack, summer.Boar. Haystacks. Haymaking motif on Botiza rug.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)

Maramureş 9. Open air museums.

An Open Air Museum and an open air museum?

In modern Hungary, the vernacular variety of a century ago now survives only in its magnificent Open Air Museum, Skanzen , near the Budapest suburb of Szentendre, itself once an active artists’ colony. There you can find reconstructed villages and farmsteads from every region, as they were before their disruption of the Great War and homogenization during the following decades. Hay barns of wood and reeds, with roofs of thatch or shakes or tiles, illustrate the delightful diversity of the pre-industrial past. Beehives evoked in miniature the graceful domes of hay we had seen in their thousands.

Reed barn, Kisalfold region, 2006. Reed barn, Kisalfold region, 2006. Reed barn, Kisalfold region, 2006.
Beehives, 2006.Beehives, 2006.
And in the section entitled Upper Tisza, representing the region just across the contemporary border with northwestern Romania, we saw many structures, effectively but artificially preserved, of the living landscape through which we had recently traveled. Small piles of hay in the museum barns and soprons (here called aboras) were poignant or pathetic echoes of the dynamic panoramas of haymaking we had been privileged to witness.
Abora (hayshed), Upper Tisza region, 2006.Abora (hayshed) and sheep barn, Upper Tisza region, 2006. Wicker maize sheds, Upper Tisza region, 2006.

Haystacks are too seasonally ephemeral and their landscapes too extensive to be preserved as museum artifacts. Sentimentally, we yearn for Maramures to be protected as a regional monument to pre-medieval life and work. More modestly, perhaps the farms and fields of Ana’s beloved Şurdeşti could be deemed worthy of the international reverence and protection already given by UNESCO to that village’s famous church. A precedent for this might be found in the Kaunergrat Naturpark in Austria which integrates traditional haymaking into Alpine scenery. Unless an unlikely alliance of imagination, politics, and funding is forged, the Romanian rural landscape may soon be transformed by EU regulation and investment into the ubiquitously humdrum international style of mega-bales. If you’ve read this far, I urge you to go to the real Maramureş and see the regionally distinctive remains of vernacular hay, before it becomes fodder for the all-too-common market.

Maramureş ephemera: to Ana Iuga, with thanks.

Haystack, dawn, Şurdeşti, 2006.Abandoned house, evening, Şurdeşti, 2006.

The objects in this landscape have their own half-lives.
Mowed wilting flowers will drop their seeds and live again.
The damp windrows will be shaken free of dew,
heaped in mounds or mini-spires to lose more sap,
then piled and stamped into the bee-hive towers.
The haystacks in their hundreds will decorate the hills,
awaiting sleds of winter and transfer to the steaming cows,
behind the ropey wooden gates of yards and barns.

Those who scythe the flowers and wield the rakes,
fork high the hay and shape the summer domes,
then break them down to pile the horse-drawn sleds,
and raise the roofs of sheds to fit the fodder
for animals that work and make the milk and meat,
survive a while themselves then gravely settle down,
clustered in the shadows of the shingled spires,
under stones that eventually forget their names.

Mysteriously, through lore and love, they all live on.
Although the cherished hay may cede to baleful change,
and abandoned thatch uncured by smoke decays,
and the weather tears apart the shingle scales,
and blunts the edgy details of the gates,
and fades and cracks the color of the painted signs,
and erodes the words from the stone-stacked graves,
we shall always see them in each other’s eyes.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2006

Hay Life List

A Hay Life List.

Discovering hay images in books and magazines and on the web may be compared to ornithologists being theoretically aware of thousands of avian species only in their libraries. The bird watcher’s so-called "life list" is the product of thrilling visual and auditory encounters with creatures in their environment. Having collected, by December 2005, well over 5000 hay images from secondary sources, I decided that my Hay Life List should consist only of those works I’ve seen in the original, several hundred if I count my own inconsistently artistic photographs of hayfields around the world, only a few dozen if I restrict myself to real art in real museums and galleries. Here’s a report on recent sightings.

Heade. Rhode Island Shore. 1858.Heade. The Great Swamp. 1868.

In the fall of 2005, I saw Martin Johnson Heade’s first hay painting (Rhode Island Shore, ID 170) at the Los Angeles County Museum and The Great Swamp (ID 222) at the new De Young Museum in San Francisco. Heade's panoramic proportions give his marsh paintings in reproduction a sense of epic scale. In the museum they seem tiny but luminous, especially the LACMA example from 1858. The foggy swamp scene from ten years later is diminished further by its contextual wall, hung two deep with inferior landscapes.

Bastien-Lepage.  Bles murs. 1884.While in Santa Barbara to browse through UCSB’s unrivalled collection of exhibition catalogs and art periodicals and scan dozens of new discoveries for my database, I also visited the city’s museum with its legendary but largely hidden collection. One of its currently featured works, beautifully illuminated and isolated on its own wall, much larger than the Heades though more intimate in theme, was one of the last paintings by Bastien-Lepage, whose more famous Hay-making from the Musee d'Orsay we featured in our recent "Resting in the Hay" essay. A bent old man, back turned to the observer, holding an ancient symbol of mortality, faces the field he is about to mow. The title, Bles Murs, and the cradle attached to the scythe suggest that the material is wheat, but the ragged, earless plants look enough like grass for us to imagine that it’s an uncut hayfield.

In New York for the great retrospective of Russian art at the Guggenheim Museum, I saw Levitan’s mysterious Twilight Haystacks (ID 781), and Plastov’s Reaping, almost certainly mowers in a hay meadow, glorious with impressionistic wild flowers, far more exciting than the flat reproduction seen previously only in a book on Soviet Realism (ID 960) and Harvest, hitherto unfamiliar, depicting an old man at rest with two small children in a field of grainstooks or haycocks (ID 5036). The catalog cover of the Russia! exhibition shows another fine harvest painting, again almost certainly of corn not hay, by Alexei Venetsianov (ID 779).

Levitan Twilight haystacks. 1899.Plastov. Reaping. 1945.

Plastov. Harvest. 1945.Venetsianov. Harvesting, Summer. 1827.

Tryon.  Newbury haystacks in moonlight. 1880s.At the Spanierman Gallery, in an exhibit of American Tonalism, there was an atmospheric Dwight Tryon haystack, backlit by a rising moon (ID 4897). The Spanierman is one of those enlightened art businesses which recognizes that internet exhibitions of fine reproductions immensely broadens the potential market of its inventory. Even better, since the Tryon’s price was a thousand times higher than I could afford, and since the painting will probably disappear into an obscure private collection, the gallery maintains an archive of works which have passed through its hands, allowing students of tonalism (and haystacks!) to continue to have virtual visual access to this silvery, powerfully mysterious work.

The hay highpoint of my New York visit and my year was the drawing of haystacks in the grand Van Gogh retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum. I was familiar with reproductions of other versions of these monumental stacks from the 2002 monograph Van Gogh: Fields: the first an oil painting (ID 747); the second a watercolor (ID 745); the third and most notably a large illustration of the drawing given by Vincent to his friend Emil Bernard (ID 750).

The excellent annotation to this drawing, by Dorothee Hansen, includes smaller illustrations of two of the other versions (the oil painting and the drawing shown at the New York exhibit, ID 751), and is worth quoting at length, since it compares this series with another painting/drawing series (ID 748, ID 743, ID 744, ID 752, ID 753, see below) which also includes hay elements and was represented in the Metropolitan show.

Van Gogh. Haystacks in Provence. Oil. 1888.Van Gogh. Haystacks near a farm. Watercolor. 1888.

 Van Gogh. Haystacks near a farm. Drawing. 1888. Van Gogh. Haystacks near a farm. Drawing. 1888.

“Like the drawing Harvest Landscape [ID 752], this piece, Haystacks near a Farm, is based on a similarly titled study in oil (Haystacks in Provence). The contrast between the broad fields in Harvest Landscape and the immediate presence here of massive haystacks, which distort the view into the depth of the drawing, could hardly be greater. The theme is the work of harvesting in the fields and its end result in the form of huge haystacks outside the farmhouse. Van Gogh himself referred to the two studies in oil used as sources for the drawings as ‘companion pieces.’ They provide both the contextual frame and the points of reference for the entire harvest series executed by Van Gogh in June 1888. In contrast to the distance and depth of Harvest Landscape, Van Gogh emphasizes two-dimensional surface in a close-up view in Haystacks near a Farm. Thus a carpet of ringlets and short pen strokes representing grass and flowers dominates the foreground. The soft spirals of the haystacks are drawn with the finergoose quill and form a flat pattern that takes its shape from the strong contours added with a reed pen. The sizes and positions of the haystacks provide the coordinates of the pictorial space, which is narrowly restricted by the farm building in the background.

“Van Gogh did another drawing based on the painted version of Haystacks for his friend, the [Australian] painter John Peter Russell [ID 751, the one in the New York exhibit, on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art]. The style of this work differs distinctly from that of his drawing for Bernard, although the format and technique are the same. The grass and the haystacks in this piece were executed in at least two different work phases, and one sees in the haystacks that dots and short lines were applied over fine curls and spirals. Powerful horizontal strokes in the grass placed above the short strokes of the grass stubble represent shadows. The field and the haystacks are covered with fine dots, as are the road and the sky, which Van Gogh left blank in the drawing for Bernard. In the piece drawn for Russell, he developed a complex, intricately worked, decorative surface texture. The drawing for Bernard looks more spontaneous, more open, and richer in contrast. Together these drawings document Van Gogh’s command of a broad range of styles, which he employed selectively according to function and recipient.” [p.120]

Hansen’s fine essay mentions in passing the unexpected insight that the drawings, not the brightly colored painting, were the culminating phase of the series. The curatorial commentary on the version sent to Russell and ten years later owned by Henri Matisse, gives it primacy over the other three: “The fourth and final version of an image realized in watercolors, oil paints, and pen and ink, this homage to monumental haystacks strives to summarize in one small space all of the visual, tactile, and olfactory sensations of summer life.”

The annotation in the exhibition catalog (Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings, 2005, catalog 67, p.202-203) amplifies this assessment of the final drawing’s preeminence: “Through these four stages the design evolved from relatively rough to polished, from fragmented to seamless. Remarkably this final drawing, caricatural in its fussiness, of pin dots and needles, fairly vibrates with the thrum of summer farm life, its haystacks tended like idols by peasants and chickens.”

Hansen’s perceptive comparison of the Haystack series with the other great farm landscape series from Provence in the summer of 1888 prompts me to include all five versions of Harvest Landscape, even though the haymaking vignette just to the right of center is barely visible in the more abstract, culminating drawings. (ID 748, ID 743, ID 744, ID 752, ID 753)

Van Gogh. Harvest at La Crau, with Montmajour. Oil. 1888.Van Gogh. Harvest at La Crau, with Montmajour. Oil. 1888.[detail]

 Van Gogh. Harvest in Provence, at left Montmajour. Watercolor. 1888. Van Gogh. Harvest in Provence, at left Montmajour. Watercolor. 1888.

 Van Gogh. Harvest landscape. Drawing. 1888. Van Gogh. Harvest landscape. Drawing. 1888.

Seeing the Van Gogh drawings vibrating “with the thrum of summer life” (a couple of hours after standing in the snow on the other side of Central Park with other John Lennon mourners singing "Hay Jude" and “Hay, you've got to hide that love away” on the 25th anniversary of the Beatle Bard's death) was an exquisite climax to my third year of harvesting the art of hay. But reading and transcribing the two evocative descriptions quoted above was equally gratifying, since they so eloquently express my own persistently powerful attraction to the icons of summer and why, in spite of the inferiority of the vast majority of them to these masterpieces, I continue to collect them, even in digitally diminished form, in their thousands.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 06:19 AM | Comments (587)

February 06, 2006

Resting in the hay (1592-1900).

Deyrolle. Tedders at the end of the day. 19th century.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.

Csok. Haymakers, Hungary. c1890 Bastien-Lepage. Haymaking. 1877.

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.

 Dessar.  Summer sunlight. 1894. c1890  Mann, Day dreams. 1882.

3. Vincent Van Gogh. Siesta. 1890. Although the crop in question is probably not hay, no "resting" image series from the late nineteenth century would be complete without Van Gogh’s painting of a couple sleeping with their sickles by a stack. The gold-brown shadows in which they lie seem only to enhance the sizzling heat of the yellow field under the shimmering sky. The Millet work from which this was copied is shown below in another section. 4. Camille Pissarro. Rest. 1882. The palette and texture of Pissarro’s study of a girl lying in a hayfield reflects the gentler climate of northern France, the gentler style of the pioneer impressionist, and the cooler tones of hay.

Van Gogh. Siesta. 1890.  Pissarro. Rest. 1882.

5. Camille Pissarro. Haymakers, resting. 1891. A group of women engaged in almost visible conversation around a haycock inspired two Pissaro paintings, the first a water color sketch. 6. Camille Pissaro. Haymakers, resting. 1891. The oil version has a solid, almost monumental feel, enhanced by the shadowy blue dresses. 7. Camille Pissarro. Siesta. 1899. A later study shows another woman in blue lying full length in the shade of a warmly painted haycock, the pink of her bonnet matching the cloth on a nearby picnic basket.

Pissarro. Haymakers, resting. 1891. wc. Pissaro.  Haymakers, resting. 1891. oil. Pissarro.  Siesta. 1899.

8. Julien Dupre. Repos dans les champs. 1887. Pissarro’s contemporary Dupre, working in a more conventionally figurative style, is far less well known, in spite of the valiant scholarship and promotional efforts of the Rehs Gallery. Elsewhere, we have shown his hay heroines at work. Here we show them at rest with their male companions. 9. Julien Dupre. Femme versant a boire. 1883. Here a woman pours refreshment for a man. 10. Julien Dupre. Dejeuner des faneuses. After 1880. And here the favor is returned.

 Dupre. Repos dans les champs. 1887.  Dupre. Femme versant a boire. 1883.  Dupre. Dejeuner des faneuses. After 1880.

11. Henry Bacon. Peasant girl. 1883. The young woman’s costume evokes those of the Dupre haymakers, but the painter, Bacon, was American, and the background cottage is distinctly English. That she is resting on her scythe is also anomalous, since mowing was usually a male activity. 12. Frederick Morgan. Midday rest. 1879. Morgan’s charming, sentimental, and probably allegorical painting shows three generations of women next to a haycock under a bright midday sun. An old woman with a white bonnet is offering bread to a small barefoot girl who seems to be looking for permission towards a beautiful dark-haired young woman. The hay and the foliage behind are brilliantly rendered.

 Bacon. Peasant girl. 1883.  Morgan. Midday rest. 1879.

13. John Ross Key. Haymaking near San Jose, California. 1873. Key’s lithograph of the Santa Clara (now Silicon) Valley uses resting figures as foreground interest while the work goes on more distantly. 14. Benjamin Leader. Making a haystack, Whittington. 1879. Leader’s composition, celebrating the landscape of the Severn Valley of his native Worcestershire, is strikingly similar to Key's. But the west of England light appears in the oil painting more Californian!

Key. Haymaking near San Jose, California. 1873. Leader.  Making a haystack, Whittington. 1879.

15. Jules Breton. Repose des faneuses. 1873. This inadequate reproduction is borrowed from Kenneth Haltman’s astonishing essay on Winslow Homer’s “antipastoralism.” Haltman, noting the breast-feeding mother, comments on the “insistent orality” of hay harvest scenes, often linked to pairs of bosom-like stacks. 16. Winslow Homer. Making hay. 1872. Homer himself often showed children in his hay scenes, never explicitly nursing. His wood engraving for an 1872 Harpers shows two children sitting in the foreground while two men scythe in a meadow. An oil version of a very similar scene omits the resting children and includes a romantic episode. 17. Thomas Anschutz. Farmer and his son at harvesting. 1879. Anschutz’s version of our theme is more documentary. Best known for his urban scenes, here he depicts father’s work and child’s rest in a recently cleared hayfield, among mountain hardwoods.

Breton.  Repose des faneuses. 1873. Homer. Making hay. 1872. Anschutz. Farmer and his son at harvesting. 1879.

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.

 Bouguereau.  Rest in harvest. 1865.  Summer joys. 1864.  Cameron. Weary farmer, Scotland. 19th century.

Courbet.  Siesta at haymaking time. 1868More difficult to categorize, in either the context of our theme or the artist’s own vast and eclectic oeuvre: 21. Gustave Courbet. Siesta at haymaking time. 1868. Surrounded by stolid bovines who would be equally at home in an Edward Hicks religious allegory, two men lie asleep, one under and one beyond the trees. A wagon or stack behind them signifies the season and their task.

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.

Millet. Noonday rest. 1865.  Sargent. Noon. c1875.

23. Jean-Francois Millet. Study for Harvesters’ meal. 1851. The huddle of figures is dwarfed by the giant stacks behind them. 24. Jean-Francois Millet. Ruth and Boaz. 1852. An alternative title overlays an Old Testament allegory on the scene. 25. Jean-Francois Millet. Haymakers’ rest. 1848. The unusual composition has prompted speculation that some of the painting has been destroyed. The haystack towers out of the frame at left. 26. Jean-Francois Millet. Petite paysanne assise au pied d'une meule. A deftly sketched child seems rooted to the base of the haycock, anchored by the upturned forks.

Millet. Study for Harvesters’ meal. 1851.  Millet. Ruth and Boaz. 1852.

Millet. Haymakers’ rest. 1848. Millet. Petite paysanne assise au pied d'une meule..

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.

 Stearns. George Washington at Mount Vernon during hay harvest. 1851.  Mount. Farmers nooning. 1836.

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.

Linnell. Hayfield. 1864. Linnell. Mowers in the field in Porchester Terrace, Bayswater. 1830. Linnell. Haymakers' repast: a scene in Wales. 1815.

The principal figure in each of these Thomas Uwins images is a man leaning on a pitchfork, but the two figures are far apart in social class. 31. Thomas Uwins. Man leaning on a pitchfork. 1811. A simple but powerful sketch of a laborer resting heavily on his fork. 32. Thomas Uwins. Haymakers at dinner. 1812. In this large, complex painting, the man standing at left has a fine hat and boots, a fine horse nearby, and the fork is more like a spear than a support. Nevertheless, he does wear a smock which suggests that he has been working with his laborers. The empty wagon at far right evokes Rubens, but the painting is, in Christina Payne's words, “a curious mixture of artistic influences and direct observation... the old couple on the right are convincing, but the couple in the center look like the 'drawing room rustics' of Francis Wheatley, and the woman leaning on her rake and the man drinking from the barrel are probably derived from paintings or prints by James Ward.” (p. 153)

Uwins.  Man leaning on a pitchfork. 1811. Uwins. Haymakers at dinner. 1812.

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.

Sadeler. People harvesting hay in August. 17th century. Bril. Harvesting. 17th century.

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.

“Van “Goyen.

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.

“Grimmer. Grimmer. Haymaking. 1592.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 03:37 PM | Comments (4)

October 24, 2005

Resting in the hay (1900-2005).

 Kupersmith.  Resting on a hay truck. 2005.A recent gift from a former Berkeley librarian colleague, John Kupersmith depicts several men resting on a hay-bale truck, not far from Monument Valley in southern Utah. John’s fine photograph reminded me of the long tradition of images of people relaxing with their hay. Indeed, the keyword “resting” retrieves well over 100 items from the Hay in Art database. Several of them have been shown already in our earlier Roles in the Hay essays, many showing either glamour poses or love-making. The current essay shows more restful versions, people pausing for rest or refreshment from the arduous task of mowing or making or moving hay. The organization is, as usual, roughly chronological, but here we’ll begin with John’s recent southwestern journey (item number 4702 in the database) and then work (or perhaps doze) back to the earliest versions of this sub-genre in the sixteenth century. John’s Resting on a hay truck was, by his account “taken on Highway 163, just outside Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border (technically I think this spot is in Utah), in late September, around 6pm. I went past the truck, couldn't believe my luck, turned around and asked these old boys if I could take their picture. They were very cheerful and patient about it. The crew boss (you'll spot him right away) said ‘Well, now we're gonna be in National Geographic!’”

 Parker and Hart.  Wizard of Id strip, October 23, 2005.Even more current than John’s photograph is this perfectly-timed panel in a Wizard of Id comic strip which appeared on Sunday, October 23, 2005, the day after my birthday!

Twenty-first century gallery.

The cluster of images below shows the variety and confusion among the styles of contemporary art and photography. The first pair contrasts a German expressionist with a Dutch surrealist; and the next three show variations on the theme of nostalgia.

1. Udo Kirchner’s Heuernte in Braunseifen shows faceless figures resting in a field of geometrically simplified haycocks in a style reminiscent of German Expressionism, almost a century ago. 2. The contemporary Dutch artist Tuen Hochs depicts a farmer resting by a haycock with another kind of cock on his knee. This postmodern cocky quirkiness culminates a five hundred year tradition of Netherlandish hay art.

 Kirchner. Heuernte in Braunseifen. 21st century.Hochs. Untitled. 2000.

3. Dawn Depuy, a contemporary New Mexico artist, in the words of the gallery annotation “breathes life into long forgotten picnics, honeymoons and holidays from the first half of the 20th Century when life was full of simple pleasures and innocent pastimes.” 4. The clothes of the Irish whistler and the style of the haycock are timeless enough to preclude precise dating, but the fine photograph appeared in a handsome 2004 book by Jill Freedman, and so we’ll place it here in the twenty-first century. 5. This Ingo Fast cartoon illustrates a New York Times article on why presidential candidates who choose to miss the 2003 Iowa caucuses “won't miss much.” The bale/ballot-box probably refers to rustic innocence or rural insignificance. It is unclear whether the sleeping figure next to it is a politician or a voter. The phrase “stick a fork in it” (meaning it's dead) also comes to mind.

 Depuy.  After the haying. 21st century.  Freedman.  Crevelea, County Antrim. Before 2004. Fast. They won’t miss much. 2003 cartoon.

Twentieth century gallery, since the second world war.

Late twentieth century hay imagery is dominated by commercial or documentary photography, much of it culled from the public Corbis pictorial collections. The first three pictures show people resting in the hay respectively of Florida, Poland , and India; next a trio of paintings shows the colorful work of the Maine impressionist Waldo Peirce next to two realists from the former Soviet Union; two very different field sculptures follow; then the brilliant Dutch illustrator, Rien Voorfliet next to two more Corbis photographs.

6. Annie Griffiths Belt’s 1994 photograph of a girl and her Dalmatian resting among bales appeals to many potential consumers of pictures: of teenage girls, dogs, and hay. 7. From Raymond Gehman’s series on traditional Polish peasant life on the eve of modernization, Mr and Ms Jerzy Skibko share a liquid lunch near a bipedal haycock in Babia Gora. The horse and wagon in the background reinforce the sense of picturesque tradition. 8. The Corbis caption of Nazima Kowall’s cheerful image of a Khasi family resting allegedly “during hay harvest” is probably in error. More likely, given the pattern of stubble on the ground, this scene near Sumer, Meghalaya is of the rice harvest.

 Belt. Young girl sleeping with a Dalmatian, Florida. 1994. Gehman. Farmer and wife on lunch break, Poland. 1993. Kowall. Indian farmers resting during hay harvest. 1990s.

9. Maine artist Waldo Peirce’s Ordway Barn, according to the gallery notes uses “some colors and brushwork ideas from Renoir with a loose interpretation of space and an esprit that is uniquely Peirce. The family at work and play are oft-repeated themes of the artist's very personal work and here they reach full realization in a major canvas, one that has long been out of the public eye but often considered his finest work.” 10. The Ukrainian Gennardy Shlykov reveals a bawdily improbable scene in which the haycocks are the most realistic elements. 11. Victor Ivanov’s vaguely orientalist “At haymaking time” has little hay in sight but firmly links us to our sub-genre of rest.

Peirce. Ordway Barn. Late 20th century. Shlykov. Rest-time, Ukraine. Late 20th century.Ivanov. At haymaking time. Late 20th century.

12. Aaron Horowitz’s “Rest area” is a postmodern variant on the sub-genre, but it is unclear, however, whether the photographer was also responsible for assembling the crude constituents of this roadside construction. 13. James Pierce’s 1976 “Earthwoman,” a grass-softened mound in the shape of a reclining nude is perhaps the ultimate expression of the hay rest theme.

 Horowitz. Rest area. c1990.  Pierce. Earthwoman. 1976 field sculpture.

14. Rien Poortvliet’s delightful depiction of traditional Dutch farm scenes was published in English as The Farm Book, translated from Te hooi en te gras (The hay and the grass). The English title is, alas, more accurate, since neither the Dutch nor the English version is as totally devoted to hay as we would like! But both versions do include many vivid images related to hay, both in the making and in the barn. This sketch shows lovers resting in a haystack. 15. Dean Conger’s 1963 photograph shows a pair of Scottish farm workers resting near their well-made haystacks. 16. Lola Alvarez Bravo’s “Descansando” from 1960 also has two men, here discovering restful shade under a truck of bales.

Poortvliet.  In the haystack. 1975.Conger. Farm workers resting near haystacks. 1963. Alvarez Bravo. Descansando. 1960.

16. Otto Dreser’s 1954 “Landarbeiter bei der Kaffeepause” captures workers taking a coffee break from haymaking in the postwar Rhineland region. 17. Sol Libsohn’s “Farmers rest from haying, New York State” is from a 1945 series on the rigors of farmwork in upstate New York.

 Dreser. Landarbeiter bei der Kaffeepause wahrend der Heuernte in Kevelaer. 1954.Libsohn. Farmers rest from haying, New York State. 1945.

Twentieth century gallery, 1920-1945.

Our next collection begins with two fine WPA murals from Indiana; then a wartime English scene and a road-side photograph from California reminiscent of Alvarez Bravo’s “Descansando”; three fine prints from the 1930s; a pair of Alpine haymaking scenes from the 1920s; two paintings, one from Germany and the other from near my own home-town; and three documentary photographs also from the twenties.

18. Marguerite Zorach’s 1942 hay-making scene, a fine example of Midwestern WPA mural painting, decorates the walls of a building in Monticello, Indiana. The sleeping figure at lower right qualifies it for inclusion in this essay. 19. Gail Martin’s 1939 depiction of haymakers filling the water jugs is from another WPA mural in small town Indiana, this one from Danville.

Zorach. Hay-making. 1942 mural.Martin. Filling the water jugs, hay-making time. 1939 mural.

20. Canadian soldier takes break from haymaking, England. c1941. During the long wait for the invasion of mainland Europe in the summer of 1941, Canadian soldiers volunteered to help with the haymaking in England. Here they rest in the hay near a horse-drawn rake. 21. Driver sleeping in hay truck. 1933. Another fascinating image from the Corbis collection has the following caption: “W.A. Nelson can boast of one of the strangest beds in the country. Nelson and his partner, Monk Evans, haul Alfalfa Hay from the Imperial Valley in the extreme southern part of California to San Francisco, a distance of over six hundred miles. They do this in driving relays having fitting up a comfortable bed on the trailer with sixteen tons of hay over the one who is sleeping. Here they take turns sleeping in four shifts for fifty hour drive.”

 Canadian soldier takes break from haymaking, England. c1941. Driver sleeping in hay truck. 1933.

22. John Demartelly depicted rural life in middle America during the harsh years of the Great Depression. He was prolific in many media and two of his haymaking images are shown here. “No more mowing” shows a woman sleeping on newly cut hay. Her pose is languid, yet disquieting, the nearby scythe and the symmetrical rays from threatening clouds hinting at mortality. 23. Demartelly’s “Choreboy” is more nostalgic than allegorical, although the black birds hovering near the sleeping boy mar the mood of blissful innocence. 24. Next to the Demartelly sleepers is one of Gwen Raverat’s superbly descriptive wood engravings which capture life in rural England between the wars. Although the scene shown is more likely to be of grain harvesters than haymakers, it is included as black-and-white counterpoint to Demartelly’s fluid lithography

Demartelly. No more mowing. 1930s.  Demartelly. Choreboy. 1930s.Raverat. Harvesters resting. 1930s.

25. The first of a pair of images documenting Alpine haymaking before the second World War shows Swiss haymakers with scythes and rakes resting on bundles, presumably in an area too steep for wagons and horses. 26. Konrad Nussbaumer was an Austrian farmer who liked to take photographs. This carefully composed group portrait captures a family with their tools at rest by a haystack in Bregenzerwald.

Swiss haymakers resting on bundles. 1930s? Nussbaumer. Pause beim Heuen. 1930s.

27. Paul Hey’s dappled scene of haymaking in Germany from roughly the same period as the Alpine photographs above is a gentler, more romantic impression. 28. Complementing Hey’s oil painting is a 1922 water-color illustration by F. Whitehead from a guidebook to my home county of Warwickshire. It shows a hay meadow by the River Avon with the towers of Warwick Castle in the background. Our own farm a dozen miles away was still using similar equipment thirty years later, and I remember resting on the soft windrows like the figures at the right of the Whitehead’s painting.

Hey. Heuernte. German 1930s? Whitehead. Warwick Castle from the bridge. 1922 guidebook illustration.

29. The first of three photographs documenting resting haymakers from the 1920s is a Romanian scene. The group of men and women is symmetrically posed: men at either end are adjusting or sharpening their scythes; in the center an older man also holds a scythe; a young woman and a girl hold wooden rakes; and an older woman holds a more modern four-tined metal fork. 30. From the same period, several thousand miles away is “ A Stack of hay on the Holland Tract, Sacramento, California.” Here the resting figures are subordinate to the modern technology reflected both in the huge haystack and the proudly displayed automobile. 31. The portrait of “The Newton family in the hay, Vilda, Alaska” combines elements from the preceding images: the crude artifacts of frontier life and a family evidently dressed up for a special occasion.

 Harvest time in Romania. 1920s.Stack of hay on the Holland Tract, Sacramento, California. 1920.Newton family in the hay, Vilda, Alaska. c1920.

Twentieth century gallery, Before 1920.

Our early twentieth century includes: three paintings of childhood; three photographs showing haymakers taking a break; three hand-colored prints from the magnificent Prokudin-Gorskii series on Russia on the eve of revolution; and concludes with a set of French greeting cards from the turn of the century.

32. The first of a pair of paintings by the Canadian Elizabeth Forbes shows a hayfield madonna from 1915 in a delicate lavender dress tenderly covering her resting child against a background of haycocks with peaks tied. 33. Another Forbes painting from two decades earlier shows another child resting in the hay. 34. The famous 1915 Volland edition of Mother Goose, frequently reprinted, was profusely illustrated by Frederick Richardson, whose work includes Little Boy Blue resting against a haystack.

 Forbes. Woman and child in a hayfield. c1915.  Forbes. By Mounts Bay. 1896-1897. Richardson. Little Boy Blue. 1915.

35. A group of English haymakers have lunch near their horses, only a few hundred miles from the terrible trench warfare of 1916. 36. Two years earlier in Somerset in the west of England, another farm group rests on an empty horse-rake. 37. A hand-tinted photograph from North Dakota from about 1910 shows a man resting on another piece of haying equipment, a horse-drawn mowing machine. Friendly neighbors greet him, indifferent to their impact on the chest-high grass.

 Haymaker’s lunch. 1916.  Haymaking. Somerset. 1914.Interrupting the mowing for a friendly chat. c1910.

38. The Library of Congress has hundreds of hand-colored photographs by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii documenting life in Russia in the years before the revolution. This is the first of three showing “Krest'iane na pokosie” – peasants either making hay or resting in hayfields. 39. Another hand-colored Prokudin-Gorskii print of a similar scene. 40. A third print by the same photographer shows haymakers lunching on the banks of a large river.

 Prokudin-Gorskii. Krest'iane na pokosie (Peasants haying). 1909.  Prokudin-Gorskii. Krest'iane na pokosie (Peasants haying). 1909. Prokudin-Gorskii. Krest'iane na pokosie (Peasants haying). 1909.

41. Alfred Partikel’s “Heuernte” (Haymaking) from 1911 is a curious mix of styles and content, conveying an impression of actual work around improbably posed resting nudes. 42. In contrast, Solomon Butcher’s 1904 photograph of Nebraskan men, women and boys resting near a stack of alfalfa bales could not be more statically straightforward. 43. Equally static but strangely disturbing is this image, from a year earlier, of well-dressed Edwardian English picnickers reclining in a hayfield.

 Partikel. Heuernte. 1911. Butcher. M C Ekstrom bailing alfalfa near Overton, Nebraska. 1904.Picnickers rest in a hayfield. 1903.

44. John Singer Sargent, well-known for his portraits of members of the urban elite, painted this elderly couple resting in a hayloft. 45. A sharply focused, carefully posed 1900 portrait of a farm family has them sitting incongruously in the hay in their best clothes.

Sargent. In the hayloft. c1904. Farm family. 1900.

46. The first of two saucy French greeting cards from the first decade of the twentieth century shows a man and his dog resting by a haycock but about to be pleasantly disturbed. 47. Another greeting card, also entitled simply “Fenaison” (Haymaking), shows the same couple in a similarly playful moment.

 Fenaison. Early 20th century French greeting card.  Fenaison. Early 20th century French greeting card.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 03:13 PM

September 30, 2005

Haystack Butte: a triangle of coincidence.

As has often been remarked, internet “publishing” creates and fosters active communities of interest and brings together people from all over the world. Even an arcane blog like this one has attracted active contribution in the form of comments from over a hundred people, among them historians, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, librarians, artists, poets, ranchers, cowboys, and of course friends and family. So, in spite of the unstoppable putrid spam which oozes through our filters, we’ve kept the comments door open. (Please keep on commenting. Ignore the error message that may greet your comment and imply erroneously that it has not been received.) The following correspondence, lightly annotated [in italics], illustrates the way a comment can open a new path of discovery which leads back to a place already visited and people already known.

Ritch. Haystack Butte. 2005. The place is Haystack Butte, one of several western landforms with that name, located about 50 miles west of Great Falls, Montana. The people are Meriwether Lewis (who passed Haystack Butte 199 years ago and called it Shishequaw) and several members of the Clary family to whom I am related by marriage, who celebrated both of the weddings in our Wedding Bales essay, and who once ranched on the land surrounding -- Haystack Butte.

Comment posted by Joseph Mussulman at June 29, 2005 09:54 AM
Can anyone tell me why cone-shaped mountains in the Rockies are often labeled "Haystack Butte"? Is that term used elsewhere in the world? I notice that Martin Heade's haystacks are consistently conical in shape, and I know Claude Monet painted some 30 conical haystacks. Can anyone tell me how or why the conical stack came to be? Seems to me that wind and gravity conspire to define the shape (especially in the western U.S.).

Comment posted by Alan Ritch at July 8, 2005 01:01 PM

Dear Joseph:

Thanks so much for your comment and question, which, I'm inferring, stem from an interest in toponyms of the Lewis and Clark routes. (Joe’s email address is jmuss@lewis-clark.org.)

When you have the time, you may wish to explore more thoroughly the vast iconography of haystacks, haycobs, haycocks, etc., that populate my database of over 4,500 images. The ID numbers in the following message refer to the numbers in the database. The conical shape which you mention is almost certainly the oldest form of hay pile. It appears, for example, on Trajan's column in Rome, part of the sculpted narrative commemorating the invasion of Dacia (present day Romania), and repeatedly thereafter.

Here are some European examples [click on the numbers to go to examples in the database]:
5, 37, 42, 54, 55, 81, 89, 123, 482, 522, 536, 598, 604, 610, 747, 780, 781, 852, 869, 944, 981

Christ sitting on a haystack. 16th century engraving. Pissarro. Haystack, Pontoise. 1873.Gauguin. Haystack near Arles. 1888.

Here are some North American examples [click on the numbers to go to examples in the database]:
163, 164, 165, 297, 298, 306, 308, 313, 314, 317, 318, 351, 358, 787, 859, 924, 958, etc. and over a hundred Heades.)

Homer. Weaning the calf. 1875. Twachtman. Haystacks at the edge of woods. 1895.Nason. Haystacks. 1949.

The frequency of its appearance in 19th century landscape painting and photography, suggests that, before the baler, it remained the most common shape, both in Europe and North America.

A variant "cottage-loaf" shape with a linear peak from which parallel roofs sloped was also common and still present on old-fashioned farms in the England of my childhood. 66, 89, 377, 422, 430, 431, 432, 462, 608, 612, 647, 770, 834, 870, 937, 1109, 1180, 1240, 1278 , 1292, 1294, 1298, 1301, 1305, etc.
Godstow  Nunnery, near Oxford. 1772. Waite. In the stackyard. 1888.Conder. Farm, Richmond, New South Wales, 1888.

Note that the first of the three images above is from 1772, and both the second and third are from 1888. The last one, however, depicts a farm scene from New South Wales, 12,000 miles from the others!

Soeders. Urformen. 1964.McLaughlin. Taking down a haystack. 2000.In Sotriffer's wonderful study of the art and architecture of hay in the Austrian Tyrol, northern Italy, and the Balkans, there is a fascinating taxonomy of forms, compiled by Hans Soeders, depicting more subtle variations on our basic cone.

As a nice example of cultural persistence, you can still see the ancient Dacian stacks in the Romanian Carpathians today. They have been throughly documented by the fine photographer Kathleen Laraia McLaughlin, one of whose images is shown at right.

Ironically, the most famous "haystacks" in art, the 30 or so "meules" of Monet, to which you refer, are not hay but wheat. For a handy visual comparison of Monet's few haystacks (meules de foin) and many (justly celebrated) grainstacks (meules de grain), see my "Missed stacks and mistakes."

The cone form certainly survived, until the American West was explored and its landmarks named. I've included only one such feature in my collection: Haystack Rock , actually BEYOND the west, in the Pacific off Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast. [An Oregon painter named Richard Gorsuch is creating a different painting of Haystack Rock, every day for a year, making Monet's meules seem a relatively minor obsession].

Vetter. Haystack Rock. Thompson. Haystack at noon.Pagani. Kiwanda #2.

Ritch. Square Butte from Clary Ranch. 2005.Ritch. Haystack Butte. 2005.I'd be most grateful if you could refer me to the locations of all the "Haystack Buttes" with which you are familiar. [Later, using a webservice called maptech, I found the coordinates of many, perhaps most, of the Haystack Buttes (and other "Haystack" landforms) in the US. Here's a quick summary: I found 311 haystack place-names, in 32 different states. Of these, there were 87 Haystack Mountains, 43 Haystack Buttes, 10 Haystack Peaks, 9 Haystack Islands, and various other Haystack Knobs, ranges, hills, and summits. There are 19 different Haystack Buttes in Montana, 5 in South Dakota, 4 in Wyoming, 3 in Arizona, 2 each in California, Colorado, North Dakota, and Washington, and others in Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon. Surprisingly there are none in Utah or Idaho, both of which have 6 Haystack Mountains and several hundred other Buttes. Haystack Mountains are common throughout New England, where Buttes, of course, are unheard of. The images below are of several Haystack Buttes, from left to right, two of the famous one in Glacier National Park and a decidedly un-butte-like ridge by the Columbia River (also passed by Lewis and Clark)]

Holzmann. Going to the Sun Highway and Haystack Butte. 2000. Rochejaune. Haystack Butte, Glacier NP. 2005.Topinka. Haystack Butte, Columbia River. 2002.

[Three more Haystack Buttes from the American West: the first from South Dakota, a source of Tyrannosaurus bones; the second yet another Montanan butte; and the third serving as the foundation for a spaceship testing site near Edwards Air Force Base in California.]
Haystack Butte, South Dakota. Dawson. Haystack Butte, Sweet Grass hills, Montana. 1993.Haystack Butte, California.

Perhaps I'll add an essay on the geomorphology of hay. But (no pun intended) "butte" evokes for me a formation in the semi-arid west with a flat top caused by a more resistant horizontal layer, e.g., the Square Butte, [shown at left in a view from Dick Clary's ranch] that appears in so much of C M Russell's work, probably based on a landform north of Stanford, Montana, about a hundred miles east of the very different landmark, Haystack Butte, passed by Lewis in 1806.) [Joe Mussulman's own wonderfully erudite website on landscapes of the Lewis and Clark route has a typically precise account of the etymology of the word: 'The French word butte was not in the English dictionaries of Lewis and Clark's time. In the early 1840s, however, explorer John Frémont found that in the West butte was broadly applied to "detached hills and ridges which rise abruptly, and reach too high to be called hills or ridges, and not high enough to be called mountains."'-- glossed in even more detail in a footnote: 'Or, as an essayist in the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine in 1882 (Vol. 24, p. 510) wrote, rolling his eyes between parentheses, "(Everything in the way of hill, rock, mountain, or clay-heap is called a butte in Montana.)" Some modern definitions specify that buttes have flat tops rimmed by steep escarpments that slope toward the surrounding plain. (For a classic illustration see Square Butte.) However, geologists' current usage is broader than that, closer to Frémont's and the original French: "rising ground; knoll, mound, or hillock."']

Ritch. Hay Tor. 1987.One final note, the granitic "Hay Tor" on Dartmoor, Devon, UK, rounded by exfoliation, looks less like a tidy conical haystack, than a pile of bundles or bales! The picture at right shows the Tor on the horizon. The more sharply weathered chunk of granite jutting from the heather and gorse in the foreground, admittedly in miniaturized scale, has something in common with the Montanan Haystack Butte.

Best wishes,

Email from Joe Mussulman to Alan Ritch (July 24, 2005)


Agee. Shishequaw Mountain, Lewis's view. 2005.Many thanks for taking the time to respond to my query concerning
haystacks. As things have turned out, it now appears to me that
Meriwether Lewis's name, Shishequaw (actually his phonetic
version of an Ojibway term for rattle), and the later American name
"Haystack Butte" for the same landmark, have no connection at all.

Agee. Shishequaw Mountain, view from north. 2005.That is, I had assumed from the photos I've seen of Haystack Butte
that the feature looked the same from all sides, which raised the
paradox of the two names. Then I drove over there -- only about 100
miles from my home -- and checked it out. You can see what I saw, and
my conclusions, at http://www.lewis-clark.org/content/content-article.asp?ArticleID=2289

Agee. Haystack Butte. 2005.[The three photographs at right, taken by J Agee and borrowed from Joe Mussulman's website, illustrate respectively: the angle from which Meriwether Lewis first viewed the Butte; the view from the north; and another view which more closely resembles a nineteenth century haystack ]

Should you have any comments or criticisms, I'd welcome them, at your

Thanks especially for your "Missed Stacks and Mistakes." For many
years I've been fond of Monet's works -- My first view of his
waterlilies at the Chicago Art Institute is indelibly etched in my
mind -- and your remarks deepen my interest in him.

I am also glad to have been introduced to Heade's paintings. Your
presentation is tremendously exciting.


Email from Alan Ritch to Joe Mussulman (September 12, 2005)
Dear Joe:

Ritch. Haystack Butte. 2005.I'm sorry our paths didn't cross on my own recent journey up to your state, especially since I made a few more delightful discoveries of coincidences surrounding Haystack Butte. I vaguely remembered seeing this pyramid, on my annual drives up US 287 to Augusta and Choteau. I always stop at the Milford Colony to chat with the old Hutterites and buy their fine veggies, before coasting over that splendid rolling route along the Rocky Mountain Front on the way to my brother- and sister-in-law's cabin under Ear Mountain on the South Fork of the Teton. This year I took a side-trip out of Augusta and took some photos of the Butte with hay, naturally, in the foreground.

When I got to the cabin, I mentioned this excursion (and the coincidence of our internet friendship) to my sister-in-law, Ann Clary Gordon. Ann looked at me in amazement and asked whether I realized that her family had ranched the land around Haystack Butte for decades. I knew that the Clary family (her father's side) had pioneered along the Front and that the Holter family (her mother's) were also successful entrepreneurs both in the Helena area and east of Lewistown [for a while they owned the N Bar ranch which is the subject of Linda Grosskopf's On Flatwillow Creek] , but had not known exactly where until the subject of the Butte came up. Her father, Bob Clary, broke the family ranching tradition and became a Great Falls lawyer (since this is a less arduous undertaking, he has survived to age 90, and still, I believe, goes to his office). Her younger brother Dick bravely (or foolishly) went back to ranching and runs his Angus herd on a spread near Utica (home of the increasingly famous What the Hay Festival, another hay connection).

When I mentioned all this to Dick at the ranch later that week, he too regaled me with childhood stories about climbing Haystack Butte in search of Indian arrowheads -- and pulled out a little "treasure chest" which is full of them.
I hope you enjoy this triangle of coincidences as much as I do.

Let's stay in touch.
Best wishes,

Email from Alan Ritch to Bob Clary (September 12, 2005) [Bob’s 90 year old eyes prefer the uppercase font]









Email from Bob Clary to Alan Ritch (September 23, 2005)



[A recent picture (at right) of some of Dick Clary's herd reflects the popularity of the Black Angus breed and the startling appearance of one young White Angus. If it's a heifer, and if Dick decides to keep it for breeding, he'd better keep some lamp-black handy!]


Stacking hay with overshot stacker. c1957.IN LATER SUMMERS, AFTER MY HAY RAKING WAS COMPLETED, I DROVE THE TEAM WHICH PULLED THE CABLE LIFTNG THE OVERSHOT STACKER LOADER, PICTURED IN "ON THE FLAT WILLOW". [Grosskopf, Linda and Newby, Rick. On Flatwillow Creek. Los Alamos, NM: Exceptional Books, 1991, p. 273.]









Email from Alan Ritch to Bob Clary (September 23, 2005)




Alec Ritch with horse-drawn kale cart. 1953.BUT HERE ARE THE ORIGINS:
I GREW UP ON A WARWICKSHIRE (ENGLISH MIDLANDS) FARM. MY FATHER, EITHER THROUGH TECHNOLOGICAL TIMIDITY OR PRESCIENT AGROECOLOGY, NEVER BOUGHT A TRACTOR, PREFERRING TO USE DRAFT HORSES (AND HIS MALE CHILD!) WELL INTO THE 1950S. SO MOST OF OUR TASKS, INCLUDING HAYMAKING, WERE AS ARDUOUS AS THEY MUST HAVE BEEN A CENTURY BEFORE. [The photograph at right was taken in December 1953 for an article in the Coventry Standard: 'Mr. Ritch (left) with his farmhand, Mr. Derek Lowndes, shows one of the his three farm horses, and a load of kale.' My father, not as short as he looks (Derek was 6'5" tall) wore a mischievous smile and khaki shorts, simultaneously mocking the photographer and the winter weather. The article noted that Mr. Ritch wears shorts 'all the year round, only putting on overalls on particularly cold days.' The fodder in the horse-drawn cart was kale, but the article ended with a quote by my father on his use of hay: '"It does cattle no harm to have some dry food but I can't get them to eat hay now. They get the grass in the fields, and they eat the roots [and kale], but they won't take the hay. Even though I flatter myself that I make good hay.''']




[Another of my recent pictures (at right) of a stack of round bales with the Rocky Mountain Front behind them captures new geomorphological affinities: the cylindrical building blocks, irregularly arranged, having something in common with the rolling stacked strata of the Front.]




Posted by Alan Ritch at 03:11 PM

September 13, 2005

Silage on Seven Devils Road.

Abandoned silage bales, Seven Devils Road, north of Bandon, Oregon, August 2005.

Ritch. Silage bales. 2005.Coastal Oregon can be damp and cold enough to make even the summer traveler wear winter clothes and the hay maker to wrap his bales in plastic covers more reminiscent of wet Wales, than of the hot, dry American West. I found these silage bales from an earlier season, left to decay on a typically chilly August day. The fog extended only a few hundred yards inland, but the damp air sucked by the inland heat penetrates many miles up the Camas Valley. Beyond the first protective ridge, humidity drops, temperatures soar, and hay can be made without protective plastic. But these abandoned packages, mysterious detritus of industrial agriculture, have their own peculiar beauty. The uncertainty of their abandonment to ferment and decay provoked enough metaphors to string together the following sonnet.

Ritch. Silage bales. 2005. Ritch. Silage bales. 2005.Ritch. Silage bales. 2005.

Silage sonnet.

The plastic is the color of the mist,
Or sheep or snowdrifts after partial melt,
With wizened texture, these taut wrinkles pressed
Outward by inner swell, like bellied belt.
The fodder fumed within these swollen lumps
Left cooler seeds to darkly germinate
And push up fronds and stems, sharp clumps,
Green points, new verdant blades that lacerate.
Grains also settled on the surface skin
With wind-borne dust enough to fertilize
The urgent leaves and roots that sink within
To find fermented mulch and rush the bale’s demise.
As bodies shrouded cycle back to earth,
Abandoned hay regenerates its birth.

Ritch. Silage bales. 2005. Ritch. Silage bales. 2005.Ritch. Silage bales. 2005.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 02:02 PM

September 17, 2004

From Wales to Wisdom: wet and dry hay in the West.

Silage bales, White Sands Bay, near St Davids, 2004. Silage bales on wagon, standing stone, Llanrhian, near St Davids, 2004.
In the old fishing and mining village of Porthgain, almost as far west as you can go on the most westerly peninsula of the island of Great Britain, Marion Davies reminisced about the old Welsh ways of haymaking. “We used to rake the hay over and over to dry it, on the few days of sunshine we get around here. The sweat would make our skin smart where the thistles had prickled us. At the end of the day, we’d run down to White Sands beach and dash into the surf to cool off. The salt made us sting even more, but it was so much fun. Now everything’s done with big machines. The weather doesn’t bother the farmers any more. They just wrap up the sappy grass and turn it into silage. It stinks. Horses hate it, but cows’ll eat anything. What they drop after eating silage stinks worse and turns the ground to acid.”
Wisdom sign, with hay making scenes, Wisdom, Montana, 2004.Haystacks, Hirschy Ranch, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004.
Halfway between Wisdom and Jackson, in the Big Hole Valley of southwestern Montana, 83 year-old Jack Hirschy and his family still make the kind of hay the earliest ranchers once made by hand in this basin between the Beaverheads and the Bitterroots. For much of the year, the ground is frozen hard; then, after the spring thaw, the grass grows quickly in a virtual swamp. By July the ground and the air are dry enough to allow an army of workers, young and old, but now much diminished, and hay-making machines, old and new, into the vast, waist-high meadows.

 Silage bales, Ettington, Warwickshire, 2004.  Bales, between Stanley and Challis, Idaho, 2004. This essay will report on these two western hay-field-trips, made in the summer of 2004, one to the damp west of England and Wales, where hay has been made virtually obsolete by new technologies, and the other to the western United States, where the combination of semi-desert air and well-irrigated valleys still produces a magnificent variety of hay landscapes and hay shapes.

For centuries, the rolling summer patches of coastal Pembrokeshire were windrowed and cocked, as on the wide open fields depicted in the Dixton Manor painting described elsewhere on this site, and even today in the small fields on the peninsulas of western Ireland.

 Thatching hay, County Clare, 1987.Haystack and haycocks, Rossaveel, County Galway, 1987.Haystack and capped cocks, Ballynakill Harbor, County Galway, 1987.

Marion Davies and her family don’t farm anymore. They can’t afford the big machines. Alun, her husband, turned to painting the wonderful Pembrokeshire scenery, and she runs a gallery of his work for the tourists who hike along the 180-mile coastal path or drive down the narrow lane from Llanrhian to the shore. Every June for centuries, the fields beside the lane would have been full of the scent of sweet Welsh hay. In June 2004, these smells and the grass that used to yield them are covered in airtight plastic.

Then, fifty or so years ago, the loose hay began to be replaced by little rectilinear bales that could still be manhandled. More recently, the fields were occupied by fewer, larger bales, rectangular or round, that needed a forklift to lift and move. Now the scenery has taken on the scale and texture of a Christo landscape (for example his Wrapped Trees, installed in Switzerland in 1997).

Silage bales, near St Davids, 2004.White and green silage bales, near St Davids, 2004.Stacked silage bales, near St Davids, 2004.

Christo. Wrapped Trees. 1997.Christo. Wrapped Trees. 1997.

Huge plastic bundles, usually black and shiny as crows, occasionally white as snowdrifts, or more rarely a soft pastel green, dramatize and dominate the environment and seem to mock the mild, moist western weather which makes the grass so sweet and used to make its mowing and drying such a challenge.

Silage bales, near St Davids, 2004.Silage bales, White Sands Bay, 2004.Silage bales on a wagon, Llanrhian, 2004.

Silage bales, near St Davids, 2004.Silage bales, Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, 2004.Silage bales, Church Lawford, Warwickshire, 2004.

 Silage bales, Church Lawford, Warwickshire, 2004.Silage and hay in barn, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, 2004.Traditional silage dump, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, 2004.

These bundles have been a feature of the similarly damp New England summer landscape for more than a decade, prompting the painter Altoon Sultan to the following amibivalent observation: “this stuff - the silos, manure piles, plastic-wrapped hay, machinery - is exciting in its monumentality and sculptural presence. The ordinary ugliness of a tractor or a mound of old tires is weirdly beautiful.”

Sultan. Equivalents, Fletcher, Vermont, 1998.Sultan. Plastic wrapped bales, Barnet, Vermont, 1997. Sultan. Silage, 1999.

Sultan. Plastic curtain, Newbury, Vermont, 1999.Sultan. Tire tracks, North Haverill, New Hampshire, 1999. Haylage, near Palmyra, Maine, 1993.

British farmers once used all their powers of observation to predict the arrival and duration of sunny dry spells between the almost relentless squalls that roll in from the Atlantic across the Irish Sea. But now they don’t need to. They used to hope for about a week of warm weather to make the hay. Now they can cut, bale and wrap on the same day. Or they can wait four days or so and wrap the half-dried grass into a hybrid called haylage, a tobacco-like material that even horses, if necessary, will digest.

Silage bales, Ettington, Warwickshire, 2004. Silage bales, Ettington, Warwickshire, 2004.
Silage costs more to make, both because of the expensive machinery, often contracted to move from farm to farm, and the price of plastic, likely to increase as the cost of petroleum inexorably rises. But these costs are somewhat offset by the reduced risk of spoilage and the opportunity to harvest earlier in the year and potentially multiply the number of hay crops from the same field. A warm spell later in the year, especially if the summer turns dry, may allow the second crop to be left to dry unwrapped. The following pair of images was taken near the village of Biddestone in Wiltshire a day apart, in May, 2004. In former spring times, the white hawthorn blossoms in the copse beyond the windrows would rarely be seen with hay. In the second picture, the dogs explore the suddenly changed environment.
Henry and Chloe windrows, Wiltshire, May 27, 2004.Chloe and Henry, cleared hayfield, Wiltshire, May 28, 2004.
The only hay I saw in the west of England and Wales in June, 2004, was evidently left over from the previous year. All in large bales, mostly round, occasionally square, usually stored in barns, but sometimes evidently abandoned to sink back into the ground or used to fill in the space in a hedgerow by the Welsh coastal path.
 Square bales, Long Lawford, Warwickshire, 2004.Round bales in barn, Biddestone, Wiltshire, 2004. Round bales in barn, Biddestone, Wiltshire, 2004.
Round bales, Sulva, Pembrokeshire, 2004.Round bale in hedge by coastal path, Pembrokeshire, 2004.

Hay in the arid West.

But during a 3,000 mile journey through some of the western United States, two months later, we saw no silage, and thousands of tons of hay. Its production depended on irrigation water, usually pumped onto startlingly green alfalfa fields from streams and rivers flowing through an otherwise arid landscape.

Freshly cut alfalfa, Owyhee River, Rome, Oregon, 2004. Irrigation, haystacks, near Twin Falls, Idaho, 2004.

Irrigation, baling, near Townsend, Montana, 2004. Irrigation, baling, near Townsend, Montana, 2004.

Round bales are the dominant form, even appearing in the large marshy fields of the Big Hole. When asked whether this shift from the traditional large, loose-hay stack was related to topography, bales, perhaps being associated with better-drained, rolling ground, Jack Hirschy was skeptical. “It’s just a question of what crews are available at any given time. If a crew can handle the buck-rake and the beaver-slide (elevator), then we’ll gather the hay loose. The round-baler’s a light enough outfit to ride even on the lower ground, but it’ll be a few years before it takes over completely.” The Hirschy ranch has so many buck-rakes, beaver-slides, and metal-framed stack-holders, that the nimble new baler is joining a suite of alternatives rather than sweeping them away. Here are a few images of the tools used in gathering in the hay on the Hirschy Ranch, some of the legendary 10,000 haystacks of the Big Hole Valley, and a few of the round-bales beginning to invade the traditional landscape.

Big Hole Valley Sign, between Wisdom and Jackson, Montana, 2004.
Haymaking machinery, Hirschy Ranch, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Swather or tedder, Hirschy Ranch, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Buckrake, Hirschy Ranch, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004.
Beaverslide elevator, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Haystack, beaverslide elevator, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Haystack, stack-frame, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004.
 Haystack, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Haystack, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Haystacks, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004.
 Haystack and round bales, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Haystack and round bales, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004. Haystack and round bales, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004.

Further north in Montana, round-bales are ubiquitous: near Townsend in the upper Missouri Valley, near Judith Gap east of the Little Belts, near Melville in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains, and pallisading the grand rolling country made famous by the novelist Ivan Doig, sout of Choteau near the Rocky Mountain Front.

Round baling, near Townsend, Montana, 2004. Round baling, near Townsend, Montana, 2004. Round baling, near Townsend, Montana, 2004.
Round bale, near Townsend, Montana, 2004. Round bales, old homestead, near Judith Gap, Montana, 1991. Making round bales, Crazy Mountains, Montana, 2000.
Round bales, near Choteau, Montana, 2004. Round bales, near Choteau, Montana, 2004.
Round bales, near Choteau, Montana, 2004. Round bales, near Choteau, Montana, 2004. Round bales, near Choteau, Montana, 2004.
It is not uncommon to find round bales and square bales stacked in close proximity, often mimicking the geological strata and shapes of the background mountains, like these downstream from Stanley, Idaho.
Bales, between Stanley and Challis, Idaho, 2004. Bales, between Stanley and Challis, Idaho, 2004.

Hay contributes strong formal elements to the scenic grandeur of the western landscape: as lumpy, fragrant hillocks in the Big Hole country; as staddled cottages near Jackson, Wyoming; as loaves baked under the semi-desert sun of Idaho and Oregon; or as powerful, simple squares and cylinders, assembled into battlements under the big, dry sky. In conclusion, here is a sampler of those multifarious shapes, free of the simplifying texture of plastic which protects the wetter hay of the old world west.

 Haystacks, Big Hole Valley, Montana, 2004.  Haystacks near Jackson, Wyoming, 2003. Chopped and moulded haystacks, near Challis, Idaho, 2004.

 Round bales, Utica, Montana, 2000.  Balestacks, old homestead, near Swan River, Idaho, 2004. Balestacks, near Tetonia, Idaho, 2004.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 06:25 PM

August 25, 2004

Montana wedding bales.

During the past four summers, I’ve attended two Montana weddings both of which used hay-bales as rustic pews for those attending. The first was at a ranch near Utica where hay is important enough for the annual What the Hay Festival to have become the state’s number one tourist attraction. The bales were arranged in concentric circles around a tent which sheltered the ceremony from the sun and from ash falling out of the fire-browned sky of the year 2000.

Musicians at Clary Wedding, 2000. Guest on bale, wedding.

The second, in August 2004, also included bales and a tent, but was much more exotic to northern Montana. A self-defined “mix of Sindhi, Irish, Scottish, Sikh, Jewish, Quaker, Sufi, Norwegian, Buddhist, and Montana traditions” the ceremony and the tent (mandap) where it was held were fundamentally Vedic. The vivid color of the mandap, garlands, and offerings contrasted brilliantly with the setting: a meadow ringed by an aspen grove, close to an old Metis cemetery, on the slopes of Ear Mountain in the Rocky Mountain Front, 25 miles west of Choteau.

Hay bales and offerings.Groom and bride.

The wedding bales are an expedient pretext to share some visual impressions with those fortunate enough to attend the recent magical ceremony and other hay mates who may be interested its remarkable beauty.

Most of those attending stayed at the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau, where they were greeted by a sign congratulating the groom and bride.

Grandparents and Aunt, 2004. Cousins, Aunt and Uncle, and their dogs. Brenna and Grace.

The groom’s mother comes from an old Great Falls family; his uncle is the rancher who married four years before. His step-father is my brother-in-law. The family built a dream cabin on the South Fork of the Teton River (Ivan Doig’s “English Creek” for those familiar with Doig's superb trilogy of Montana historical fiction).

Wedding party at cabin.

The wedding party gathered at the cabin, and the ceremony was held a few pastures away, over which the two family groups made their separate ways.

Groom and grandparents. Groom riding to his wedding.
The walk was long enough to justify a horse-drawn wagon for the elders, led by the groom in his clan kilt, riding a traditional white horse from the Hindu tradition.
Holter Graham and mandap, 2004.Groom rides to his wedding.

After the families greeted each other at the Mandap, an old college friend, accompanied by the daughter of a favorite professor, sang an Irish ballad.

In this Heart.Wedding musician.

Then the groom's stepfather gave a Jewish blessing, attended closely by his stepson and his kvelling father.

Jewish blessing. Groom listening to blessing. Grandfather listening to blessing.

The guests took off their shoes, sandals and cowboy boots and entered the mandap or sat on the bales just outside,

Guests at wedding. Guests at  wedding. Guests at wedding.

and the most sacred parts of the ceremony led by a Hindu pandit and his daughter began.

Pandit and daughter.Pandit's daughter, garlands.

Here are some of the more solemn and vivid moments.

Bride and groom. Wedding scene. Groom and mother.
Saptapadi. Bride, groomand friend. Bride's foot and rice piles.
Groom, bride, groom's stepmother. Wedding offerings. Kissing elders' feet.

At the end of the ceremony the Holy Fire (Havan) was extinguished.

Pandit, daughter and horses. Extinguishing fire, 2004. Wedding offerings, 2004. Extinguishing fire, 2004.

Following the Quaker tradition, all the guests, beginning with the rancher-uncle, bore witness to the marriage by signing the license. The groom had to buy back his boots from mocking maidens, while others watched.

Uncle signs wedding license. Women auction groom's boots. Cousins applaud groom.

Parents posed and the newly weds kissed.

Parents pose at wedding.Kiss.

The elders climbed back into the wagon and led the procession back to the cabin under the sun-tipped cliffs of Crab Butte.

Wagon seen through garlands, 2004. Procession away from ceremony, Lugnut, 2004. Procession away from ceremony, Crab Butte, 2004.

Leaving the bales, mandap and offerings, the newly weds walked together down the twilit, aspen-lined meadow.

Bales and offerings, 2004.Newly weds leave mandap.

Back at the cabin, several additional Sindhi and Irish rituals were held, involving milk, salt, and oatmeal, further blessing and unifying the couple and their families.

Bride and parents. Couple and bride's mother. Couple and aunties.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 12:00 PM

July 24, 2004

Dixton Manor haymaking: a visual encyclopedia.

Bruegel. Haymaking. 1565. Cole. Haymaking.Very few of the hundreds of paintings depicting the various phases of haymaking (mowing or scything, tedding or turning the hay to help it dry, raking, forking, cocking, carting, stacking, etc.) show several successive activities in the same scene. The most famous exception is perhaps the great Bruegel painting in the Prague museum (see the database ID 2012-2016 for detailed activities). Less well known is a nineteenth century scene by George Vicat Cole. Chronologically between these works is the "Countryside around Dixton Manor" , a magnificent haymaking panorama painted by an artist as yet unknown, in Gloucestershire, England, in the early eighteenth century. John Harris, in the Observer Magazine (4 November, 1979, p.60) called this painting "one of the most evocative pictures in the whole of English art. There is nothing like it either in its day or at any other time: to stand and look at this picture is to be taken through the looking glass."

Countryside around Dixton Manor. c 1715.

Countryside around Dixton Manor. c 1715. left detail Countryside around Dixton Manor. c 1715. right detail.

Unlike Bruegel's more famous work, which conflates the folkways of northern Europe with idealized scenery based on the artist's Italian journey, this anonymous prospect painting, though similarly dramatic in its perspective, is rooted firmly in a specific time and place. The work now hangs in the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, only a few miles from a scene depicted so accurately that the view of the same fields, hills and hedgerows can still be identified today. The vista includes some of the rolling limestone Cotswolds, topographically enchanting enough to attract the tourists who now vastly outnumber the population still working in the fields.

Countryside around Dixton Manor. 1991 photographs.

This is one of two intricately detailed landscapes, each roughly 3 feet by 9 feet, painted from the same hill in opposite directions. The other, which hangs nearby and is shown below, depicts Dixton Manor itself, the Manor Farm, a few cottages, several small fields crowded with livestock, the family (named Higford) alighting from a coach, and one barely visible haystack in the middle distance to the left.
Dixton Manor House. c 1730. detailDixton Manor House. c 1730. left detailDixton Manor House. c 1730. right detail.

According to Jane Sales, whose article “The Dixton Paintings” in Gloucestershire History ( 1992, pp. 12-16) is an excellent description and historical analysis of the works, the topographic accuracy of the paintings may reflect the use of some form of a camera obscura. The large, unenclosed meadow which occupies most of the "Countryside"painting and contains most of its human activity was called Mickle Mead (Great Meadow) and lay mostly within the bounds of the village of Stanley Pontlarge. The meadow was divided into square plots rather than linear strips, owned by a few wealthy families, including the Higfords of Dixton Manor. In his Rural Economy of Gloucestershire, 1796, much of which I have transcribed elsewhere, William Marshall noted that while “the Hay is private property…the Aftergrass is generally common to the township...” The patchwork of plots and the vast communal enterprise are both clearly evident in the painting, but the variety of labor shown is unlikely to have been done all at the same time. Since the artist was not concerned with a coherent temporal sequence, it is left to us to parse the scene into a series of separate vignettes, some of which are illustrated below, in barely legible images.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: 23 scythers).Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: tedding).Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: cocking).Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: making cobs from cocks).Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: loading hay on wagon).Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: carting).

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: 23 scythers).The primary activity is done by the line of 23 men in a diagonal line to the left of the center of the meadow. Just beyond them is a section of uncut grass; behind them and to their right are narrow swathes, which Marshall, in comparing the scythers of Gloucestershire with those of more northerly counties, specifically admired. The regularity is due to “the narrowness of the swath-width and the shortness of the sithe…the Yorkshireman drives a width of nine or ten feet before him, the Gloucestershireman of six or seven feet only.”

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: gentry crossing swathes).Just to the right of the section being mowed, significantly almost at the meadow’s center, three riders, thought to be the local gentry, guide their horses carelessly onto the narrow swathes of fresh-cut grass, having crossed the broader windrows that have already been fluffed up to dry.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: tedders).
The actual work of fluffing and turning (tedding) is shown in a section to the right of center. The typical tedding team is apparently one man working with five women with rakes.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: cocking).The next phase, shown just to the left of the mowers, entails the raking of the windrows into small piles or “cocks.” Marshall also described this work. “It is the practice to form hay into ‘windcocks’ previous to its being put into stack. This enables the hay to be made when fuller of sap giving it superior quality.” Like tedding, cocking is also shown being done by a team of one man and five women.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: making cobs from cocks).Three distinct sizes of hay pile are clearly shown in the painting. The smallest and most numerous (143 can be counted) were still called cocks in the hayfields of my childhood. Piles of intermediate size and frequency, of which there are 97 in this scene, we called “cobs.” Another team of five is shown building cobs, in a section just beyond the tedders. Closer to the observer are rows of the smaller cocks. Helped as usual by four women rakers, a man is consolidating the cocks by forking them onto the top of cobs, encouraged by a musician standing nearby.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: loading hay on wagon).The final phase of the meadow work is the loading of the hay from the cobs to the wagons. This is shown in two widely separated sections, one at the lower left, the other at upper right.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: loading hay on wagon).The two being loaded are carefully shown to have a slight hollow at the top of the load to allow the final forkfuls to stabilize them. There are five wagons in the painting, each drawn by four horses in tandem, driven by two men with poles. Jane Sales astutely noted that each of the lead horses wears a differently colored plume, perhaps to distinguish different ownership.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: carting).Two fully loaded wagons are being led off in opposite directions, perhaps to different villages. At the far left one is heading for the lane that angles towards the sunlit distance, and at the end of the swathes being tedded another is being led towards the right (see the large image, below left).

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: haystacks and empty wagon).The fifth wagon is empty of hay but full of people. Ironically, the empty wagon is shown being pushed, perhaps playfully, by a small boy, one of several lads enjoying the lively environment, from which small girls are apparently absent. In the background, beyond a section of cobs and behind a hedge, we see a group of the largest size stacks, substantial enough that they may be left to stand there until they are fed to the animals.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: carting)Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: procession of haymakers)Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: Morris dancers)

The three images above, two scanned from postcards, the third, downloaded from the excellent Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum website, show more clearly some of the wonderful details of the painting. The one on the left depicts women with rakes making cobs, a wagon with its usual complement of two drivers and four horses, the leader with identifying plume, and two small boys rushing across the windrows. The one in the center shows a musician leading a dozen workers, nine women with rakes, and three men with forks, two of whom are merrily dancing, along an aisle of cocks, beyond contrasting textures indicating an uncut section and a corduroy of swathes. Two other women with rakes stand by the background hedge talking to a reclining male. The right-hand image above shows many of the details already discussed, along with a line of seven colorfully dressed morris dancers led away from the field by two musicians. Apart from the child’s play, the musicians, the procession of workers and the Morris dancers, there are several other recreational scenes around the fringes of the work, showing the artist’s familiarity with the time-honored conventions of haymakers’ rest and romance.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: haymakers resting). One flirtatious group is near the left entrance to the meadow, whence one of the wagons has just lumbered. A woman is walking towards them with a lunch-basket on her head. Nearby a couple dances in front of one of the musicians.

Dixton Manor, haymaking (detail: haymakers resting).Another group rests at the center of the painting by the far hedge, some lying, others leaning on their rakes. Sitting nearby is an animal, possibly a dog, apparently huge because of the naďve perspective, which while topographically accurate shows, for example, sheep in the foreground and on the distant hills at almost the same scale.

Countryside around Dixton Manor. c 1715. left detail Countryside around Dixton Manor. c 1715. right detail.

Such charming inconsistencies only enhance a scene which is both epic and intimate. The details reproduced here are insufficiently sharp to do the painting justice. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Cheltenham, where I closely inspected the original, and, with the generous guidance of curator Paul Mckee, browsed through a thick pile of documentation. Careful examination revealed a peaceful army of at least 133 people (71 male, 62 female) waging a cheerful collective campaign to bring in the hay before the weather, signified here by scudding clouds beyond the Cotswold horizon, could spoil the harvest on which the animals in the companion painting depended.

Like the other hay paintings in our database, "Countryside near Dixton Manor" may not describe precisely the process of haymaking during its period. But the meticulous attention to detail both of its separate sections and of the stage on which they are set, along with Marshall’s partial but almost contemporary descriptions, give us some confidence that this, more than most hay in art, is a visual encyclopedia of haymaking. The internal consistency and repetition of several of the elements, for example, the wagon teams of four horses and two drivers, and the work groups of five women rakers with one male forker, also increase our documentary confidence. Especially gratifying is the corroboration of our earlier essay on Women with Rakes: there are in this landscape no fewer than 46 women with rakes, some resting, most working. Finally, many of the activities shown here survived from the early eighteenth century until my own 1940s boyhood in Warwickshire, at the other end of the Cotswolds from Dixton Manor.

In the words of John Harris, the Dixton haymaking scene is "an epitome of rural England. Our unknown painter has taken out of time a moment in the hay harvest and expressed on one canvas all the joy that accompanied this hallowed annual event...The scene is like a rite -- we perhaps forget that haymaking was as redolent of meaning as a church service." Paul McKee, noting the immense and growing popularity of the work among visitors to his museum, has suggested that [it] "may be used by imaginative teachers as the starting point for all manner of educational work in artm history, geography, music dance, drama and creative writing" (TES, 29 January, 1999). Indeed, of all the works in our own virtual collection, few bring together as many of the multiple themes which the Hay in Art project is exploring.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 02:01 PM

March 17, 2004

Roles in the hay (play).

Making hay and making out, 17th cent. woodcut (detail) Jorg Breu I. Hay harvest (June), 1521 (detail).The phrase “roll in the hay” is widely understood as a euphemism for making out (or making love), even by those who wouldn’t dream of exposing citified skin to our scratchy rural material. This essay will explore such rolls, from the early 16th century to the 1990s, from a drawing by Altdorfer to eighteenth century naughtiness of Rowlandson and Fragonard, from gentle Victorian flirtations to pinup publicity photographs of Jane Russell and Raquel Welch. Details from two images introduced in our other Roles in the Hay essay show the close relationship of hay with women’s roles, rolls, and rakes: at left, the crowded Jorg Breu 1521 haymaking scene in which women with rakes flirt with rakes; and at right, the crudely carved seventeenth century woodcut, originally captioned "Making hay while the sun shines.” Behind a woman working with a rake another sits by a haycock on a man's lap.

Through the middle of the twentieth century, in Devonshire, there was "a custom that each new rick of hay should be slept on by a young man and a girl, in order to ensure that the hay would prove sweet, and the fiancée pregnant."
1953 R. DUNCAN in the Oxford Dictionary of Superstitions.

Altdorfer, Fragonard and Rowlandson.

Albrecht Altdorfer. Lovers in a hayfield, 1508 drawing (ID 28).
This delicate drawing depicts a couple lying out of sight of a church tower, which looms behind the tall grass, or soon-to-be hay. A clearer, larger image can be found at the Athenaeum web-site, by clicking on the thumbnail.

Jean Honore Fragonard. Love in a stable, 18th cent. drawing (ID 102).
Two bodies, clothed but bare-legged and of uncertain gender, embrace on a bed of hay, while a bovine chews placidly more interested in what they are lying on, than what they are doing on it. The lively brush-strokes add to the excitement. The brush-strokes, hay, etc., are easier to see by zooming in from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco ImageBase.

Jean Honore Fragonard. Jument du compere Pierre, 18th cent. drawing (ID 103).
Another variant on the mildly erotic romp in the hay theme. Evidently a young woman has been discovered by her patron on a hay stack in a barn. Her position and state of undress is, well, compromising, as is the presence of an apparently younger companion. The flowing haystack is a highlit backdrop to the center of the drama. Use the ImageBase zoom to look more closely at the, um, hay.

Thomas Rowlandson. Rural sports, or A pleasant way of making hay, 1814 (ID 139).
The workers have laid down their tools (fork and rake) and are now laying down each other. The foreground is a ribald group writhing and romping together on green hay -- two couples embracing, and two other girls throwing or about to throw bundles of green hay on top of them. In the background more conventional haymaking is being done: a woman with a rake and other figures loading a haycart. A lovely and lively water-colored engraving, blushing pink in all the right places. Use the ImageBase zoom to discover the delightful details.

Altdorfer.  Lovers in a hayfield, 1508 drawing. Fragonard. Love in a stable, 18th cent. drawing. Fragonard. Jument du compere Pierre, 18th cent. drawing. Rowlandson. Rural sports, or A pleasant way of making hay, 1814.

Mild flirtations.

Adriaen van de Velde. Haymakers in a landscape, 17th cent. (ID 72).
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.

Francis Wheatley. Hay cart, 1779 (ID 91).
Christiana Payne notes the influence on Wheatley of French pastoral painters such as Bouche and Greuze who saw the 'countryside as a place of relaxation and flirtation' and she astutely discusses the association of haymaking with lovemaking: 'the work was lighter than at corn harvest, there was less danger of the crop being spoilt by such distractions and it was in any case less valuable. Couples [or, in this case, groups in the process of pairing off] often appear in depictions of haymaking, whereas at harvest time the presence of children as gleaners seems to have encouraged artists to concentrate on family groups instead.' (Toil and plenty; images of agricultural landscape in England, 1780-1890.Yale UP, 1993, p. 81)

Edward Ratclyffe. Rest, 1870 engraving (ID 406).
Although the 'Art of the Print' commentary implies that this companion piece to ID 405 is also set in a hay-field, it is obviously a grain harvest scene. The bare arms and low cut dresses of the women would be less appropriate for bundling sheaves and building stooks than for the relaxed flirtation in which they seem to be engaged. Radclyffe completed both works just before his death in 1863. They were first published seven years later.

van de Velde. Haymakers in a landscape, 17th cent. Wheatley. Hay cart, 1779.Ratclyffe. Rest, 1870 engraving.

Heinrich Dahling. At the garden fence, 1820 (ID 1184).
“Placed in a setting filled with moral and actual barriers to the free expression of their physical loove, a young peasant couple engage in their discreet dalliance in the presence of the young man's elderly father.” Brettell, Richard R and Caroline B. Painters and peasants in the nineteenth century. New York, Rizzoli, 1983, p. 113 [color], p.112.

Winslow Homer. Waiting for an answer, 1872 (ID 305).
The scythers in this painting were used in the Harpers engraving of the same year (ID 304), but the original painting and its title tell a different story -- a young woman stands where the children recline in the engraving, and the painted trees and sea become, in the graphic, a more enclosing foliage.

 Dahling. At the garden fence, 1820.Homer. Waiting for an answer, 1872. Homer. Making hay, 1872 engraving.

The pathos of early hay pinups.

Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes. No Habra los ojos, 18th cent. etching (ID 112).
A woman sleeps, with arms evidently tied behind her, on a bed of darkly depicted hay or straw. The chain in the background indicates a prison setting; Goya's title suggests the misery of her plight.

William Palmer. Louisa, the celebrated maid of the haystack, 1788 (ID 94).
An unfortunate, mentally deranged girl of beauty and refinement who was found under a haystack at Flax Bourton, near Bristol [in the west of England]. The hay is as precisely engraved (by P. W. Tomkins, after Palmer) as Louisa's pathetic gaze.

Helen Allingham. Fanny Robin and haystack in Far from the madding crowd, 1874 (ID 370).
Fanny Robin, 'like a bundle of discarded clothing' is slumped on the ground near a large, finely textured hayrick. Near the stack is a fence with an open gate leading to a wood. Hardy's text: 'She opened a gate within which was a haystack. Under this she lay down.' The Victorian Web has a clearer image and thoroughly detailed commentary.

Goya.  No Habra los ojos, 18th cent. etching.  Palmer. Louisa, the celebrated maid of the haystack, 1788. Allingham. Fanny Robin and haystack in Far from the madding crowd, 1874.

Hay as glamour’s counterpoint.

[unknown photographer] Girl on hay rake, 1930-31 (ID 1391).
Library of Congress caption: “Miss Lucile Gates, Pomona, California, seated on horse-drawn hay rake, preparing for America's farm girl competition at the Los Angeles County Fair.” Horse-rakes, like hand-rakes, were designed to be used by a woman or child.

[unknown photographer] Girls hold farm tools, sit on wall of hay, 1936 (ID 1404).
The original caption quoted by Corbis claims that Hynes, California is 'known as the world's largest hay market, where 2,750,000 tons were marketed [in 1935], this Southern California city clebrates with its annaul Hay and Dairy Festival. These pretty farmerettes were snapped during the festivities.'

Organic Gardening cover girl, 1963 (ID 2021).
An early issue of Rodale's Organic Gardening was graced by a woman on top of a stack of haybales. The cover had little to do with the article which it ostensibly illustrated: "Practical hay-making on a small place" involved no balers.

Laura Wilson. Hutterite girls during the haymaking season, 1991 (ID 2274).
The young women of the Hutterite communities of Montana dress conservatively in similar costumes. Their social and economic communitarianism is similarly at odds with the rest of the west. And yet their farm technology is progressive. In spite of the availability of lots of low-cost labor, they invest in the latest, labor-saving equipment, reflected here in the large round bales on which the girls are posed.

 Girl on hay rake, 1930-31. Girls hold farm tools, sit on wall of hay, 1936. Organic Gardening cover girl, 1963. Wilson.  Hutterite girls during the haymaking season, 1991.

George Hurrell. Jane Russell in the hay: publicity shots for The Outlaw, 1943 (ID 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020).
“Howard Hughes's cynically brilliant commodification of Jane Russell's bosom was a triumph of Hollywood marketing and a harbinger of things to come.” (TV Guide) In annointing Russell's hay pose as #9 of the top ten pinups of all time, Retrocrush notes: "Howard Hughes knew what he wanted when he made the film THE OUTLAW in 1943. After a nationwide search for a 'busty actress' he found Jane Russell. The numerous promotional photos of her lounging about in a stack of hay were extremely racy for the time, and helped keep the film banned from most US theaters until 1950! Hughes even had a special bra invented just for Jane to help prop her up even more! Jane used the fame to endorse "Cross Your Heart" bras in the 70s. At 82, Jane Russell is alive and well as one of the last classic pinup gals still around."
Christie’s auctioned off the original poster of the pose last year exactly 60 years after the film opened in SF. Only two copies of the poster had survived, both belonged to the same owner, an 87 year old lady, who destroyed one of them allegedly to enhance the value of the other! The poster sold for 52,875 pounds. (Daily Telegraph March 5, 2003)

 Hurrell. Jane Russell in the hay, 1943. Hurrell. Jane Russell in the hay, 1943. Hurrell. Jane Russell in the hay, 1943. Hurrell. Jane Russell in the hay, 1943.

John Springer. Rosalind Russell in The Women, 1939 (ID 1419).
A few years before Jane Russell played in the hay with Billie the Kid in the Outlaw, a more wholesome Russell, Rosalind, was turned upside down in a stable scene, with hay, in The Women.

[unknown photographer] Raquel Welch in bikini, 1965 (ID 1633).
Bikini-clad Raquel Welch reclines on a prickly bed in this classic hay-related pin-up publicity photo from Hollywood.

Frederique Veysset. Arielle Dombasle, 1995 (ID 1835).
The full caption is 'Arielle Dombasle at home in Paris and in the country' -- the haywagon image is quintessentially 'country' and the actress posing in front of it represents quintessential urban sophistication.

Sebastien Cailleux. Actress Lea Bosco, 1997 (ID 1871).
The actress Lea Bosco sits on a bale near Etretat in Normandie, a conventional pose contrasting glamor and simplicity.

Springer.  Rosalind Russell in The Women, 1939. Raquel Welch in bikini, 1965.  Veysset. Arielle Dombasle, 1995.  Cailleux. Actress Lea Bosco, 1997.

The more-or-less unselfconscious glamour of hay making.

James Sugar. Girl raking hay, Iowa, c 1972 (ID 1654).
Marilyn Zumbach wears a bikini as she rakes hay on her family's farm near Ryan, Iowa.

Dean Conger. Farm workers raking hay, Russia, 1975 (ID 1664).
Women in bikinis rake and fork a hayfield in a modern version of the 19th century women-hay-workers-in-their-finery convention.

Land girls haymaking, 1940s (ID 1911).
This fascinating image was also included in the "wartime" section of the Roles in the Hay (Work) essay. The impractical workwear can be inspected more closely by using the zoom feature at the art.com site .

Peter Johnson, !Kung women carrying hay, [nd] (ID 1929).
!Kung women and girls carry hay-bundles of various sizes along a Kalahari trail. The notorious National Geographic Magazine topless tradition, exemplified in this image, has been less evident in recent years, perhaps less because of a change in editorial policy than because of the globalization of clothing mores.

 Sugar. Girl raking hay, Iowa, c 1972.  Conger. Farm workers raking hay, Russia, 1975.Land girls haymaking, 1940s.  Johnson, !Kung women carrying hay, [nd].

Costumes of women haymakers.

Francois-Hippolyte Lalaisse. Paysannes ramassant du foin, c 1843 (ID 690).
This documentary image subordinates the record of the actual work of haymaking to the costume of the women haymakers.

Paul Gauguin. Round dance of the Breton girls, 1888 (ID 603).
Gauguin's setting is a generic hay-field, but the costume and the young women's dance are ethnographically specific.

Lalaisse. Paysannes ramassant du foin, c 1843. Gauguin. Round dance of the Breton girls, 1888.

Paul Gauguin. Woman in the hay with pigs, 1888 (ID 605).
Gauguin's famous but mysterious pig-kicking woman sacrifices practicality for decorative sensuality. Although her bonnet is undoubtedly Breton, her bare back and breast are the stuff that Gauguin's Tahitian dreams are made of.

Andre Dunoyer de Segonzac. Moissoneuse debout, 1935 etching (ID 938).
Although the crop is more likely to be a cereal than hay, the costume of the female sickler is so implausible that she can't be excluded from this essay.

Gauguin. Woman in the hay with pigs, 1888. Dunoyer de Segonzac.  Moissoneuse debout, 1935.

Roger Wood. Kurdish women, 1968 (ID 1642).
There is no evidence here of the historic or future geopolitical turmoil tragically associated with the stateless Kurdish people. Instead we are shown conventional elements of exotic ethnography: vernacular architecture, costume, and ... haystacks.

Keren Su. Two elderly Miao women, c 1997 (ID 1872).
Two Miao women sit on a haycock, near Kaili, China, providing another variant on the picturesque woman and hay portrait.

Nazima Kowall. Farmers resting during hay harvest, [nd] (ID 1939).
A Khasi family rests 'during hay harvest' or, more likely, given the pattern of stubble on the ground, the rice harvest, near Sumer, Meghalaya.

Wood. Kurdish women, 1968.  Su. Two elderly Miao women, c 1997. Kowall.  Farmers resting during hay harvest, [nd].

Three ages of women in the hay

Frederick Morgan. Midday rest, 1879 (ID 429).

A charming if sentimental painting shows three generations of women resting next to a haycock under a bright midday sun. An old woman with a white bonnet is offering bread to a small barefoot girl who seems to be looking for permission towards a beautiful dark-haired young woman. The hay and the foliage behind are brilliantly rendered.

Laura Wilson. Hutterite girls during the haymaking season, 1991 (ID 2274).
The young women of the Hutterite communities of Montana dress conservatively in similar costumes. Their social and economic communitarianism is similarly at odds with the rest of the west. And yet their farm technology is progressive. In spite of the availability of lots of low-cost labor, they invest in the latest, labor-saving equipment, reflected here in the large round bales on which the girls are posed.

Morgan. Midday rest, 1879. Wilson.  Hutterite girls during the haymaking season, 1991.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 04:28 PM

March 15, 2004

Roles in the hay (work).

Roles in the hay, rolls in the hay, women and rakes.

Making hay and making out, 17th cent. woodcut The purpose of this essay is primarily to explore aspects of gender related to hay, primarily the “role” that women have evidently played in its production, especially during the long pre-mechanized phase when hay was mowed, tossed, moved and stacked by hand and in the many regions where balers are still unaffordable.

Julien Dupre. Repos, after 1880. In most pictures of most times and places, women are associated with a single tool, the rake, used for moving drying grass along the ground or tossing hay just above it. Occasionally, perhaps increasingly, they are shown using forks, but generally the work of pitching the hay onto a wagon or stack is reserved for taller, stronger men. While women are sometimes shown using sickles in grain-harvest scenes, they are almost never associated with scythes. The image at right is one of several fine women haymakers by Julien Dupre, courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.

Haymaking & harvesting, from a French 15th cent. ms., Keble College, Oxford (ID 1623).

Haymaking and harvesting, from a French 15th cent. ms., Keble College, Oxford.

Statistics and generalities.

By early March, 2004, the database of hay images included 143 showing women helping make hay. Of these, 92 showed women using rakes, another 18 showed women using rakes and forks in the same scene, 15 showed women using forks, 3 showed women handling hay without tools, one woman using a sickle, and one highly stylized sculpture of a woman using a scythe. Another 13 images showed women transporting hay, in all but one case carrying it in bundles or bales. Before Dupre’s hay making scenes of the late 19th century, women are shown with rakes in about 50 images, and with forks in only four. Here are the exceptions:
Peter Paul Rubens. Return from the harvest (detail), 1635 (ID 54).
Robert Hills. Studies of haymakers, 1810 (ID 136).
Anonymous study of haymaking in the Pyrenees, 1834 (ID 148).
Winslow Homer. Girl with pitchfork, 1867 (ID 1182).

 Rubens. Return from the harvest (detail), 1635. Hills.  Studies of haymakers, 1810. Anonymous study of haymaking in the Pyrenees, 1834.Homer. Girl with pitchfork, 1867.

Since the nineteenth century sketches are evidently spontaneous illustrations of real life, we cannot infer conclusively an invariable division of labor between men who used forks and women who used rakes; but we can more confidently assert that, from medieval illuminations to the late 19th century, most hay artists chose to emphasize that division.

Harvest time in Romania, 1920s photog.Barry Lewis. Gathering hay, Romania, 1995 photog.About a third of the women and hay images are photographs, roughly corresponding to the ratio of these images to non-photographs in the whole database. The photographs imply a shift in women’s roles from rakers to forkers, from a ratio of about 10 to 1 in the non-photographic images to less than 3 to 1 in the photographs. At left, the jolly haymaking scene in Romania soon after the first World War shows a group of men and women in ethnic costume, laughing as they rest on a pile of hay. The group and its long-handled implements are as carefully posed as those in Stubbs' hay paintings: men at either end are adjusting or sharpening their scythes; in the center an older man also holds a scythe; a young woman and a girl hold wooden rakes; and an older woman holds a more modern four-tined metal fork. At right, another Romanian hay scene, 80 years later shows two women, one with a rake and the other with a fork, in similarly formal poses.

A more obvious shift in the content of the photographic imagery is noticeable. Only one painting of a woman transporting hay was found, a work by Julien Dupre of a girl carrying a bundle of hay along a lane in front of a herd of cows. But there are twelve photographs on this theme in the database. Photographers tend to focus on women with huge hay-bundles, unless, like Lehman, they find interesting tension between the traditional (a Purepecha woman in regional dress) and modern (her alfalfa bale and the hay-truck in the background). James Ravilious is more straightforward in his documentation of work on a Devon, England farm in the 1970s, when a woman and children bring in the bales with a tractor.

Julien Dupre. Returning from the fields, 1895 (ID 621) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Ted Spiegel. French woman carrying hay, 1969 photog. (ID 1648).

Dupre. Returning from the fields, 1895 . Spiegel. French woman carrying hay, 1969 photog.

Danny Lehman. Purepecha woman carrying alfalfa bale, 1995 photog. (ID 1853).
James Ravilious. Woman driving a tractor on a farm, 1976 photog. (ID 1667).

Lehman. Purepecha woman carrying alfalfa bale, 1995 photog. Ravilious. Woman driving a tractor on a farm, 1976 photog.

Women rakers in frescos, miniatures and other manuscripts.

Women appear occasionly in late medieval haying scenes, most famously in the June page of the book of hours of the Duc de Berry, but also, below, in: an Italian fresco; in an early sixteenth century calendar leaf by Simon Bening from the British Library; and in a Jorg Breu round painting, from the National Gallery of Art, which has six women holding rakes and at least two of them flirting with, well, "rakish" looking fellows!

Limbourg Brothers. Book of Hours. June (detail), 1440 (ID 9).
Fresco, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, c 1400 (ID 1595).
Simon Bening. Haymaking, c 1510 (ID 23).
Jorg Breu I. Hay harvest (June), 1521 (ID 29).

Limbourg Brothers. Book of Hours. June (detail), 1440Fresco, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, c 1400.Simon Bening. Haymaking, c 1510.Jorg Breu I. Hay harvest (June), 1521.

Women raking in Bruegel’s Haymaking.

Bruegel's wonderful panorama of haymaking in a multi-levelled, multi-layered landscape works as a unified composition but can also be read as a series of vignettes, three of which, each containing a woman raker in a field of haycocks, are shown below.
Pieter Bruegel. Details from Haymaking, 1565 (ID 2014, 2015, 2016).

Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565. Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565. Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565.

Trios by Bruegel and Rubens: six rakes and two forks.

In Bruegel’s painting three women are all carrying rakes; in the 1635 Rubens, one of them carries a fork. The detail of Rubens' Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (Landscape with the rainbow) shows a man, obviously flirting, pushing himself and a fork between two women; another woman on the golden stack at the foot of the rainbow is working with a rake.

Pieter Bruegel. Haymaking (detail), 1565 (ID 2013).
Peter Paul Rubens. Return from the harvest, 1635 (ID 54).
Rubens, Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (detail), 1637 (ID 55).

Bruegel.  Haymaking (detail), 1565. Rubens. Return from the harvest, 1635 (ID 54).Rubens. Landschaft mit den Regenbogen (detail), 1637.

Three Stubbs poses of women with rakes: changing the angle of the pose.

In the 1785 Hay Carting (ID 76), the rakes and forks are tools not just to move the hay but to stabilize and formalize the main pictorial elements into a serene triangle. The 1794 delicate ceramic painting (ID 77) retains the central woman's original pose, but changes the activities behind her to scything and tedding. In the 1795 version (ID 78), the woman, no longer facing the observer, is vigorously using her rake on a pile of sunlit hay; but her companions retain the poses and positions of the earlier work.

George Stubbs. Hay carting, 1785 (ID 76).
George Stubbs. Hay carting, 1794 (ID 77).
George Stubbs. Hay carting, 1795 (ID 78).

Stubbs. Haymaking, 1785.Stubbs. Haymaking, 1794. Stubbs. Haymaking, 1795.

Nineteenth century women with rakes: realism to impressionism.

All the elements of the early nineteenth century haymaking genre are in the Wilson painting, at left below: men on top of a loaded wagon up to its axles in hay; horses posed at various angles; children sitting on the hay with their mother; a wealthy looking rider and a dog; well dressed women watching, and equally well-dressed women raking. The far simpler Venetsianov peasant portrait shows a woman carrying two tools, the familiar rake in front and the exceptional scythe behind. Hicks' subject is an action portrait of a different class of female haymaker, wearing a pink, ruffled bonnet. She is so close to the observer that, for the rake, only the handle is visible. Under the shadow of her bonnet she is pink-faced but serenely smiling.

John James Wilson. Haymaking, 19th cent., (ID 419).
Alexei Venetsianov. Peasant woman with scythe and rake, c 1825 (ID 778).
George Elgar Hicks. Haymaker raking, 1863 (ID 386).

Wilson. Haymaking, 19th cent. Venetsianov. Peasant woman with scythe and rake, c 1825.Hicks. Haymaker raking, 1863.

Cameron's portrait of two women carrying rakes "to the hay" is even further from the realism of rural work. Like the two impressionist works by Dessar, one of several Americans who settled in Giverny in the 1880s and 1890s, they celebrate female beauty in a romanticized rural world. Homer's 1878 watercolor is realistic in theme and impressionistic in treatment. Although the quick strokes enhance the summery effect, they are also precise enough to depict clearly the the curved frame on the rake handle. The first Dessar shows 'haystacks' (more likely 'stooks' – or French 'desmoiselles') in a grain-field. Nevertheless, we include it here for the foreground figure of a woman with a rake on her shoulder. The second painting also has a woman with a rake, here seated in the shade with her tool on the ground. She is half-turned away from the observer towards some authentic haycocks to the right.

Hugh Cameron. Going to the hay, 1858 (ID 1185).
Winslow Homer. Girl with hay rake, 1878 (ID 311).
Louis Paul Dessar. Peasant woman and haystacks, Giverny, 1892 (ID 348).
Louis Paul Dessar. Summer sunlight, 1894 (ID 349).

Cameron. Going to the hay, 1858.Homer. Girl with hay rake, 1878.Dessar. Peasant woman and haystacks, Giverny, 1892. Dessar. Summer sunlight, 1894.

French nineteenth century women rakers.

In the Millet on the left below, a woman is raking hay towards two men who are busily gathering bundles (bottles), precursors of our machine-made bales. In the background, piled to the top edge of the frame are large stacks of loose hay. Van Gogh's version is a similar pose in a simpler composition. Julien Dupre's young woman raker is far more forceful than the others in this row as she moves the hay to the male botteleurs. Notice that the shape of the rake’s handle resembles a fork, an ambiguity which confuses our division of labor and the identification of several of the tools thrust deep into the hay by the hands of Dupre’s powerful heroines.

Jean-Francois Millet. Les Botteleurs du foin, 1850 (ID 457).
Vincent Van Gogh. Woman with rake, after Millet, 1889 (ID 759).
Julien Dupre. Foins, after 1880 (ID 632) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.

 Millet. Les Botteleurs du foin, 1850.Van Gogh. Woman with rake, after Millet, 1889.  Dupre. Foins, after 1880.

Dupre’s heroic women and their rakes.

Dupre’s subjects are unusual in several respects. More than those of any other hay artist so far discovered his paintings shows women vigorously heaving hay off the ground, with both forks and rakes. Some of these paintings are vaguely titled with the generic "moisson" and one erroneous "wheatfield," but all are obviously meant to depict glamorously beautiful women in colorful clothes tossing hay with masculine energy. Seen in a row, they can be read almost as frames in documentary movie.

Julien Dupre. Haying, after 1880 (ID 628) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Temps de moisson, after 1880 (ID 629) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Moisson, after 1880 (ID 623) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Faneuse, after 1880 (ID 625) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Wheatfield, 1893 (ID 620) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.

Dupre. Haying, after 1880. Dupre. Temps de moisson, after 1880. Moisson, after 1880. Dupre. Faneuse, after 1880.Dupre. Wheatfield, 1893.

Julien Dupre. Fenaison, after 1880 (ID 630) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Harvesters loading the cart, after 1880 (ID 631) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Recolte des foins, 1881 (ID 615) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Dupre. Fenaison, after 1880.  Dupre. Harvesters loading the cart, after 1880.Dupre. Recolte des foins, 1881.

Dupre’s women at rest with rakes.

Moments of tranquility are rare in the Dupre hay paintings. And even when his women rest, their rakes are not far away.

Julien Dupre. Moment's rest, after 1880 (ID 626) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Repos dans les champs, 1887 (ID 619) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.
Julien Dupre. Dejeuner des faneuses, after 1880 (ID 624) courtesy of the Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City.

Dupre. Moment's rest, after 1880.  Dupre. Repos dans les champs, 1887.  Dupre. Dejeuner des faneuses, after 1880.

Gauguin's faneuses.

The following trio of French haymaking scenes, also painted in the 1880s, and also dominated by women, could not be more distant, culturally and stylistically from the Dupre series. Gauguin is concerned less with the work and tools of haying and the gender of the haymakers than with the decorative contrast between the black-and-white Breton costumes of the women and the golden fields and stacks which frame them.

Paul Gauguin. Haymakers, 1889 (ID 607).
Paul Gauguin. Haymaking in Britanny, 1889 (ID 608).
Paul Gauguin. Meules jaunes, 1889 (ID 610).

Gauguin. Haymakers, 1889. Gauguin. Haymaking in Britanny, 1889. Gauguin. Meules jaunes, 1889 .

Pissarro's faneuses: thirty years of women haymakers.

Like that of his American contemporary, Martin Johnson Heade, Camille Pissarro's crop of hay images (56) is large enough to deserve a separate essay. But over one-third of this collection (21) depicts women making, carrying or stacking hay. Chronologically (1874 to 1901) and stylistically (realism to post-impressionism) Pissarro's haymaking overlaps that of Dupre and Gauguin. His technical versatility is mirrored by the range of the activities of his subjects. So a representative Pissarro gallery of faneuses must be included here.

Camille Pissarro. Femme ratissant du foin (Woman raking hay), 1874 lithograph (ID 486).
Camille Pissarro. Femmes portant du foin, 1874 lithograph (ID 487).
Camille Pissarro. Harvest at Montfoucault, 1876 (ID 489).

Pissarro.  Femme ratissant du foin (Woman raking hay), 1874. Pissarro. Femmes portant du foin, 1874. Pissarro. Harvest at Montfoucault, 1876.

Camille Pissarro. Tedder, 1884 (ID 503).
Camille Pissarro. Tedders, 1884 watercolor (ID 504).
Camille Pissarro. Haymakers at Eragny, 1889 (ID 507).
Camille Pissarro. Paysanne a la fourche, 1889 (ID 508).

Pissarro.  Tedder, 1884. Pissarro. Tedders, 1884. Pissarro. Haymakers at Eragny, 1889.Pissarro. Paysanne a la fourche, 1889.

Camille Pissarro. Faneuses, 1890 etching (ID 510).
Camille Pissarro. Three women resting, 1890 watercolor (ID 511).
Camille Pissarro. Haymakers, evening, Eragny, 1890 (ID 512).

Pissarro. Faneuses, 1890. Pissarro. Three women resting, 1890. Pissarro. Haymakers, evening, Eragny, 1890.

Camille Pissarro. Haymaking, 1895 gouache (ID 518).
Camille Pissarro. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1896 lithograph (ID 522).
Camille Pissarro. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1897 etching (ID 523).

Pissarro. Haymaking, 1895. Pissarro. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1896. Faneuses d'Eragny, 1897.

Camille Pissarro. Hay harvest at Eragny, 1901 (ID 529).
Camille Pissarro. Peasant with a pitchfork, 1901 (ID 530).
Camille Pissarro. Haymaking in Eragny, 1901 (ID 531).

Pissarro. Hay harvest at Eragny, 1901. Pissarro. Peasant with a pitchfork, 1901. Pissarro. Haymaking in Eragny, 1901.

Russian roles and Soviet styles: realism and modernism.

The first pair of images typify the social realism (or determined optimism) of postwar Soviet recovery. Sunnily impressionist in their dappled light effects, they exploit what M. C. Bown terms "metaphors of renewal." Plastov's painting won the Stalin Prize in 1946 by showing the effects of war (only boys, women and old men survive to work in the fields) while implying a golden future. However the actual work is not clearly documented: the tools seem to be rakes, but the flowery field has yet to be mowed. Milnikov's title is more overtly allegorical, but his women carrying rakes to or from the hayfield echo a theme we have noted above in Bruegel, Rubens, Winslow Homer and others. As in Plastov's work, the absence of young men reflects the devastation of war, while the bright style encourages the survivors to move forward to blissful peace and prosperity.

Arkadi Plastov. Haymaking, 1945 (ID 960).
Andrei Milnikov. In peaceful fields, 1950 (ID 974).

Plastov. Haymaking, 1945. Milnikov. In peaceful fields, 1950.

The following group of women haymaking images reflects some of the complexity and contradictions of Soviet painting. Basmanov's expressionist trio from the eve of the World War II represents three archetypal activities of women in the hayfields: raker, water-carrier, and forker, while at left behind them are equally simplified shapes suggesting haycocks. Thirty years later, the Latvian Ozols has a more realistic portrait of a woman haymaker reminiscent of the nineteenth century Venetsianov, but with a busy, equally documentary background of haycocks and other workers. Finally, the late Soviet Tatarnikov depicts a voluptuous woman with a rake standing incongruously in an uncut field too golden to be potential hay. The lively clouds and flowing grass recall the style of such American regionalists as Thomas Hart Benton.

Pavel Basmanov. On the hay making, 1939 (ID 946).
Vilis Ozols. Haymaking, 1970 (ID 989).
Oleg Tatarnikov. Haymaking time, 1985 (ID 1005).

Basmanov.  On the hay making, 1939. Ozols.  Haymaking, 1970. Tatarnikov. Haymaking time, 1985.

Photographs of women with rakes: from static pose to action shot.

The shapes of women and their rakes in the works of most hay artists seem like tranquil triangles, even before pioneer photographers had to pose men and women statically with their implements to avoid the blur of movement. More recently, twentieth century cameras allowed action shots of women working energetically, with rakes or forks. Below, an intriguing, anonymous image, entitled "Pitching hay on holiday" is focused on women happily using pitchforks on their vacation, even before the war when many of their gender would be for more urgent reasons keeping farms productive. To the left of this are two illustrations of blur, the first presumably unintentional -- Sydney Newton's formal pose of Edwardian haymakers, in which the youngest of the four figures standing still for the slow film fidgets itself into blurred gender -- and the second by the famous Irish dramatist Synge perhaps to emphasize the action. To the right, Ted Spiegel's fine quintet of rakes, held by a woman and four children radiate like solar rays, from the pile of hay they're tedding. The latter's energetic action, bright color and opportunistic composition would have been impossible in the earlier days of documentary photography.

Sydney Newton. Agricultural workers, Northants, England, 1904 photog. (ID 1345).
John Millington Synge. Haymaking at Castle Kevin, Co Wicklow, c 1900 (ID 1328).
[unknown photographer] Pitching hay on holiday, 1937 (ID 1415).
Ted Spiegel. Raking hay into piles, Iceland, 1968 photog. (ID 1641).

Sydney Newton. Agricultural workers, Northants, England, 1904 photog.Synge. Haymaking at Castle Kevin, Co Wicklow, c 1900.  Pitching hay on holiday, 1937. Ted Spiegel. Raking hay into piles, Iceland, 1968 photog.

The effect of war on women's work in the hay.

Cheerful propaganda showing how well women perform manual or technical tasks when men are away at war included images intended to boost morale on the home-front. So-called “landgirls” or "farmerettes" (rural Rosie-the-riveters) did whatever it takes, not just raking, to harvest the hay in the absence of enough males, either during wars which took the men away for years or in their aftermath (literally "after mowing") which took them away for ever. The Landgirls in the first picture are obviously intended to serve as pinups more than peasants, their bikinis hardly practical in the prickly hay. The young girls in the center, evacuees from the city, seem oblivious to the battles in which Britain was engaged in 1941. The Bavarian women make hay in the traditional style near the end of the war, against signs of modernity which promise reconstruction and renewal. The first of the following "aftermath" trio of images shows a German hayfield from the 1920s full of heavily dressed women filling in for the men lost in the Great War. In the second, a woman bundles a hay-like material in a Japanese farmyard. The third, a postwar image from Hanover is notable both for the unusual mix of draft-animals -- both oxen and horses are harnessed to the hay wagons -- and for the number of women at work. Of the thirteen figures, at least eleven are female, a stark reflection of the shortage of male labor in the postwar period. Compare these relatively matter-of-fact documentary photographs with the Soviet paintings, earlier in this essay, on similar themes.

Landgirls haymaking, England, 1940s (ID 1911).
Girls pull cart of hay and goat, England, 1941 (ID 1427).
Haystacks in Bavaria, 1945 (ID 1445).

Landgirls haymaking, England, 1940s photog. Girls pull cart of hay and goat, England, 1941 photog. Haystacks in Bavaria, 1945 photog.

Farmerettes harvesting hay, Germany, 1929 (ID 1389)
Horace Bristol. Farm woman bundling hay, Japan, c 1945 (ID 1446).
Hay loads, Germany, 1947 (ID 1451).

Farmerettes harvesting hay, Germany, 1929 photog. Horace Bristol. Farm woman bundling hay, Japan, c 1945 photog. Hay loads, Germany, 1947 photog.

Men's forks and women's rakes survive.

In each of the following quartet of images from four different decades and four different countries, the work relationship is similar: men lift hay on their forks, and women rake hay along the ground. The Italian image, from about 1910, is particularly striking -- the pitched hay, posed against the sky like palm-trees, is balanced on forks which have to be held vertically to obey the tardy shutterspeed. The others, while more dynamic in their activity, illustrate the durability of custom both in the style of hay and the division of labor.

[unknown photographer] Farmers stacking hay, Italy, c 1910 (ID 1361).
[unknown photographer] Verge side hay, England, 1957 (ID 1588).
David Houser. Farmers harvest hay, Finland, c 1988 (ID 1721).
Raymond Gehman. Farmer and wife raking hay, Poland 1993 (ID 1819).

Farmers stacking hay, Italy, c 1910. Verge side hay, England, 1957. David Houser. Farmers harvest hay, Finland, c 1988. Raymond Gehman. Farmer and wife raking hay, Poland, 1993

Kevin Fleming. Amish woman raking hay, 1975 (ID 1659).
The concluding image of our essay confirms the triumph of tradition, even with a shift in technology. One of the most culturally conservative ethnic groups in North America, the Amish, is well-known for its dependence on literal horse-power. The horse-drawn rake, invented in the nineteenth century to make the creation and tedding of windrows more efficient, was designed with easy-to-shift levers and gears which allowed women to continue their conventional role in the hay, even while sitting down on the job.

Fleming.  Amish woman raking hay, 1975.

A companion essay, Roles in the hay (play), shows women in various sexual romps (with another kind of rake!) and in glamorous poses, presumably appealing because of our time-honored association of hay with soft intimacy.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 05:48 PM

January 27, 2004

Hay on water.

George Chambers. The hay-barge.  Early 19th century.Water and hay do not normally go together. Water is definitely not welcome when cut grass is drying into hay. But, in the pre-rail era when heavy, bulky goods had to be moved long distances, rivers and canals were used as transport networks, and waterborne boats and barges were common hay vehicles, not only into big cities like Paris and London but out of New England coastal marshes and around San Francisco Bay. This essay brings together several images of waterborne hay and waterside haystacks, the pre-industrial equivalent of tankers and refineries. The delicate work to the left, appropriately enough, is a watercolor, by George Chambers (1803-1840), one of two marine paintings in the Tate Gallery by this short-lived artist. As in our other essays, images are clustered by sub-theme: seventeenth century Holland; Empire Paris and Edwardian London; eastern England; rural France; hay-boats around the shores and waterways of the North Sea; and finally smaller hay sailboats from France, New England, and northern California.

Hay boats of seventeenth century Holland

Jan van Goyen. Village at the river. 1636.Jacob van Ruisdael. Cottage and hayrick by a river. c 1646.
Hendrik-Jacobsz Dubbels.  Calm sea with…hay barges. 1655The pair of paintings above are from the middle of the seventeenth century during the golden age of Dutch landscape painting. The Low Countries are penetrated by a network of rivers and canals which lent themselves to the efficient movement of hay from riparian meadows to waterside farmsteads and villages, in which the adjustable four-poled hayshed was a common feature. The upper left oil painting on wood by Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) is in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. It depicts a picturesquely dilapidated riverside village, at the left end of which is a hay-shed, with a hay-barge nearby. Next to the van Goyen is a Jacob van Ruisdael from London’s National Gallery, done about ten years later. The building and haystack seem more substantial, but the composition is remarkably similar, both in the placing of the river, trees and other natural elements, and in the position of the boat in relation to the hay-shed. Hendrik-Jacobsz Dubbels’ marine painting, also from the mid-seventeenth century shows much larger boats at the entrance to a busy port. At least two of them, the one at the far left and the one at right with sails lowered, are heavily loaded with hay. Artnet indicates that this work is currently (2004) on sale by Partridge Fine Arts.

Hay boats in the hearts of Paris and London

Victor-Jean Nicolle. Vue du port au foin…Paris. c 1810.[unknown artist] Ile St Louis. Early 19th cent.  print.

The two views above both show the banks of the Seine in the heart of Paris, early in the nineteenth century. The Victor-Jean Nicolle watercolor on the left, about 1810, is from the collections of the Chateaux de Malmaison et Bois-Preau. It is an upstream view of the ‘port au foin’ (the hay port of Paris) on the Quai de la Tournelle near the bridge of the same name. The artist and precise date of the other print are unknown. However it also shows the Quai de la Tournelle, looking downstream to the Pont de Sully, the Ile St-Louis and beyond to Notre Dame. Thus hay was delivered to the very center of the great city.

Edward William Cooke. Hay barge, Greenwich. 1835. London's National Maritime Museum has a fine description of its 1835 painting (at left) by Edward William Cooke, providing details on the commercial importance of the hay trade and the other freight, fertilizing growth both in town and country, associated with it.
'Thames barges such as this carried hay and other goods to London and around the south-east English coast. On board the laden barge, two men row with long sweeps and two are positioned at the stern. These barges had a shallow draught and were particularly suitable to enter farm creeks. They brought hay from as far as Suffolk and Margate on the Kentish shore to feed the thousands of horses in London, returning with loads of manure to spread on the fields. Under the hay they often carried a heavier cargo such as bricks, for London's rapid urban expansion. The river, the main highway through the capital, is shown full of craft. Greenwich can be seen to the left with the two domes of the Hospital and its buildings prominent.'

John Thomas Serres. Thames at Shillingford. 1823.Another painting in the National Maritime Museum shows how far hay-boats followed the Thames into the heart of the country. John Thomas Serres' landscape of the river near Shillingford in Oxfordshire includes among several other types of river-craft a large, flat-bottomed hay-barge. Again, the Museum's annotation is invaluable: 'There are three different Thames craft, two spritsail 'upstream' barges used for trading with London together with a flat lighter-barge carrying hay... The idealized setting evokes Dutch 17th-century landscape painting and the pronounced reflections reinforce an air of stillness and unreality.' Serres, once the official marine painter of George III, according to the Museum biography, signed his name on the stern of the hay barge.

The left etching below is by Sir Francis Seymour Haden, eminent Victorian surgeon who honed his skills by becoming an equally eminent etcher. His 'Hay barge' in the Albright Knox Gallery is almost certainly moored on the Thames, since it appears on the same plate as a landscape of Barnes, west London. The other etching below, from the Collage database of the Corporation of London,was done by Mortimer Menpes almost a century later, when hay barges still delivered food for the dray horses of London, to the Thames embankment near the Custom House.

Francis Seymour Haden. Hay barge. 19th century etching.Mortimer Menpes. [untitled: hay barges on the Thames. c 1906.

Hayboats on the water of eastern England

James M.W. Turner. Simmer Lake near Askrigg. 1822.Peter de Wint. Roman Canal, Lincolnshire. 1840.

The engraving above is from a series by the great English landscapist J. M. W. Turner on the 'History of Richmondshire' (now North Yorkshire). 'Simmer Lake' (now Semer Water) is transformed by Turner into a grandly sublime mountain landscape reminiscent of the Norwegian fjords. At the near end of the lake a large boat is loading or unloading hay, while an empty cart waits nearby. Further out on the lake another boat is also carrying a mound of hay-like material. The engraving is part of the finest of all Turner collections, the Tate Gallery in London. To the right of the Turner is an oil painting by Peter De Wint, also in the Tate and also depicting waterborne hay in one of England's eastern counties. But the landscape and theme could not be more different. Much of East Anglian Lincolnshire is a lowlying plain, like the Netherlands just above sea level and transected by a network of canals and tidal rivers. A wagon is being unloaded onto a barge on the 'Roman Canal.' The loose hay on the barge is being packed in much the way a stack is created, firmly compressed forkfuls built around the edges first.

Hay on rustic rivers

Johan Weissenbruck. Hay bridge [sic] [barge?] 1850.Jules Breton. Return from the fields. 19th cent.
Jules-Jacques Veyrassat. Ferryboat. 19th cent. The left painting above from about 1850 is by the Dutch artist Johan Hendrik Weissenbruck, reminiscent of Corot in his treatment of trees and clouds. The fine Athenaeum web-site gives it the odd title 'The Hay Bridge.' Unless the phrase is metaphoric, this is surely a typo for the 'hay barge' at the center of the composition. To the right of this 'bridge' image is the French realist Jules Breton's modest boat carrying a family and a small heap of hay homeward past a recently mowed meadow with haycocks. Breton invests gentle drama in the contrast between the three figures: the man pushing the pole, the woman slumped forward over the baby in her arms, and the child drifting her fingers in the water. At left is another French rustic realist work, an etching by the prolific Jules-Jacqus Veyrassat, showing a hay cart being ferried across the Seine. To appreciate its details, go to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Imagebase and use the helpful zoom feature to reveal the woman and child on top of the load, the four well drawn horses, and the boy retrieving his hat from the stream.

Hay on and around the North Sea

Petrus-Augustus Beretta. Unloading a hay barge. Early 19th cent.Willem Koekkoek. View of Oudewater. c 1867.
Dutch painters of the early nineteenth century catered to popular nostalgia both for centuries old landscape styles and even older picturesque scenery and ways of life. This series depicts first the delivery of hay by narrow waterways into small inland towns and villages, then the movement of hay along successively broad rivers out to the estuaries of the North Sea, on either side of which a similar hybrid genre of marine and rustic naturalism was popular through much of the century. To the left above Beretta's 'Unloading a hay barge' subordinates the activity of the title to a minor section of the middle right, where the sunlit hay balances the warm masonry of the impressive buildings in the lft foreground. Above right is a 'View of Oudewater' by William Koekkoek. The topographical accuracy of this work is described in detail at the web-site of London's National Gallery which owns it (see ID 1199 in our database), but the heavily loaded hay barge to the left of the bridge is not mentioned.
Charles Leickert. Unloading the hay. 1865.Edmund Crawford. Dutch hay barge. 1870.

The next four images continue the progression from small barges on tidal inlets to relatively huge seaworthy boats, piled proportionally as high with hay as our contemporary container ships are with their cargo. At upper left is a glowing oil painting from 1865 by the Belgian, Charles Leickert, whose 'Unloading the hay' appeared in a London gallery in 1980. To its right, is Edmund Crawford's 'Dutch hay barge' a coolly delicate 1870 English watercolor in which the eye is drawn to yellow hay under white sails. The large 'C' watermark stands not for Crawford but for 'Collage' the useful visual database assembled from collections owned by the City of London. The contrast between these works and those below is accentuated by the different (and indifferent) quality of the reproductions. Johan Jongkind's 'Bateau de foin' on the Meuse near Dordrecht is done in sketchy, linear brush-strokes, while Henry Redmore's canvas of massive hayboats under full sail on the Humber estuary, even in black and white, is a more conventional marine painting. Redmore was an obscure Hull engineer who began to paint 'in a highly competent and serene Dutch 17th century vein' (Country Life 3/25/71) in the late 1850s.

Johan Jongkind. Bateau de foin sur la Meuse a Dordrecht. 19th cent.Henry Redmore. Coaster…hay barge…Humber estuary. 19th cent.
 Richard Nibbs. Hay barges in an estuary. 1888.

The last of our collection of large sea-going hayboats is by another obscure English artist, Richard Henry Nibbs, who, according to Lowndes Lodge Gallery, London, which offered this canvas for sale in 1973, 'specialized in marine subjects and painted many scenes off the French coast.' Even in the imperfect Country Life reproduction of a modest work which in the original is only 12 inches wide, the two moored hay barges achieve a certain dignity, certainly grander than the status normally associated with their humble cargo. Their geographic location is uncertain, but their importance to the nineteenth century coastal trade along the shores of the English Channel and the North Sea is clearly evident, both in this image and in the ones above.

Hay under sail

Antoine Roux. Allege d'Arles avec chargement de foin. 19th cent. George Brown. Medford marshes. c 1862.
The quartet of images which conclude this essay shows four sail-boats designed to carry hay through inland waterways. The elegant 'Allege d'Arles' at upper left is a watercolor by Antoine Roux. The ones below (by Frank Thurlo) and to the right (by George Brown) of the French work show the simpler workman-like gundalows carrying salt hay from the marshes made famous by Martin Johnson Heade. Finally, the delicate drawing by Charles Hittell, now in the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, depicts one of the hay barges which plied the San Francisco Bay in the 1880s, bringing fodder from the meadows of the Sacramento Delta and the marshes of Sonoma and Napa to the horses of the city.
Frank Thurlo. Plum Island River. c 1865.Charles Hittell. [hay barge on San Francisco Bay]. 1881.

Let's end with an evocative passage from Sarah Orne Jewett on the subject of gundalows, bringing together all 'curiously foreign elements' with an especially vivid imagination:
'When you catch sight of a tall lateen sail and a strange, clumsy craft that looks heavy and low in the water, you will like to know that its ancestor was copied from a Nile boat, from which a sensible old sea-captain took a lesson in ship-building many years ago. The sail is capitally fitted to catch the uncertain wind, which is apt to come in flaws and gusts between the high, irregular banks of the river; and the boat is called a gundalow, but sometimes spelled gondola. One sees them often on the Merrimac and on the Piscataqua and its branches, and the sight of them brings a curiously foreign element into the New England scenery; for I never see the great peaked sail coming round a point without a quick association with the East, with the Mediterranean ports or the Nile itself, with its ruins and its desert and the bright blue sky overhead; with mummies and scarabei and the shepherd kings; with the pyramids and Sphinx -- that strange group, so old one shudders at the thought of it -- standing clear against the horizon.'
from 'River Driftwood' which first appeared in Atlantic Monthly (48:500-510), October, 1881, was collected in Country By-Ways, 1881, and is now, thanks to Terry Heller, online at http://www.public.coe.edu/~theller/soj/cbw/river.htm .


Several more hay boats floated into the database after the above essay was more-or-less completed, thanks in part to the willingness of our hay-mate correspondents to alert us to what we had missed. Please keep those suggestions coming. Go to the database to find more details about these images, including source information.

1. Eric Bottomley greeting card (date unknown) Hay barge, Great Western Canal (ID 1329).
2. Frederick Watts, Hay barge on the River Itchen, 1850s (ID 1340).

Eric Bottomley, Hay barge, Great Western Canal.Frederick Watts, Hay barge on River Itchen, 1850s.

3. Hay barge on the Thames (artist and date unknown) (ID 1338).
4. Thomas Robbins, Koff and hay barge off the Dutch coast, 19th cent. (ID 1339).
Haybarge on the Thames.Thomas Robbins, Koff and hay barge off the Dutch coast.

5. Unloading hay, Buenos Aires, Argentina (unknown date), stereograph (ID 1578).
6. Marc Garanger, Hay barges, Shanghai, 1981 (ID 1690).
Unloading hay, Argentina, stereograph.Marc Garanger, Hay barges, Shanghai, 1981.

7. Carl Purcell, Hay barge, Grand Canal, China, 1981 (ID 1691).
8. Kevin Fleming, Hay barge, Greece, 1985 (ID 1703).
Carl Purcell, Hay barge, China, 1981.Kevin Fleming, Hay barge, Greece, 1985.

9. Tim Page, Transportation on the Cambodian border, Vietnam, 1993 (ID 1824).
10. Tiziana Baldizzone, Barge on Meghna River, Bangladesh, 1996 (ID 1861).
Tim Page, Transportation on the Cambodian border, 1993.Tiziana Baldizzone, Barge on Meghna River, Bangladesh, 1996 (ID 1861).

11. Brad Templeton, Hay barge on the Yangtze, China, c2003 (ID 1891).
12. Unknown photographer, Indian hay boat, Kerala (ID 1893).
Brad Templeton, Hay barge on the Yangtze, China, c2003.Indian hay boat, Kerala.

13. Charles Henry Turner, Gundalow loaded with hay, 1889 (ID 2037).
14. Unknown photographer, Hauling a gundalow (ID 2039).
15. Unknown artist, Beached gundalow (ID 2034).
C H Turner,  Gundalow loaded with hay, 1889.Hauling a gundalow.Beached gundalow.

16. Wilhelm Hester. Freighting bales of hay in small boats, Washington State. c 1900 (ID 2082).
17. Charles Hosea. Marsh lighter with scythe [Norfolk, England] (ID 2480).

Hester. Freighting bales of hay in small boats. c 1900.Hosea. Marsh lighter with scythe.

18. Edward William Cooke. Hay barge and man of war on the Medway. 1833 (ID 2471).
19. George Chambers. Hay-barge off Greenwich. c1850 (ID 2472).
20. Emily Phipps Hornby. Thames below Greenwich with hay barge and other shipping. (ID 2473).
21. William A Thornley or Thornbery. Rough sea. (ID 2655).
Cooke. Hay barge and man of war on the Medway. 1833.Chambers.  Hay-barge off Greenwich. c1850.Hornby. Thames below Greenwich with hay barge and other shipping.Rough sea.

22. Georg Anton Rasmussen. Gathering hay on the fjord. 1876. (ID 2648)
23. Willem Roelefs. Canal scene with Utrecht. (ID 2650).
24. Gustav Palm. View of the Riddarholmskanalen, Stockholm in 1835. 1880. (ID 2639).
25. Willem Koekkek. Unloading the hay barge, Haarlem. (ID 2622).
26. George Stanfield Walters. Evening shipping. 1883. (ID 2660).
Rasmussen.  Gathering hay on the fjord. 1876.Roelefs.  Canal scene with Utrecht.Palm.  View of the Riddarholmskanalen, Stockholm in 1835. 1880.Koekkek.  Unloading the hay barge, Haarlem.Walters.  Evening shipping. 1883.

Oscar Wilde has an evocative line describing hay on water in his poem "Impression du Matin":

"The Thames nocturne of blue and gold
Changed to a Harmony in grey:
A barge with ochre-coloured hay
Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold

"The yellow fog came creeping down
The bridges, till the houses' walls
Seemed changed to shadows, and S. Paul's
Loomed like a bubble o'er the town."

Bertha Stringer Lee. Hay wharf, San Francisco.James and Kimel Baker (see their comment below) were kind enough to send me a digital version of a painting in their collection by the California artist Bertha Stringer Lee. It shows barges loaded "with ochre-colored hay" at the old hay wharf in San Francisco, where fogs, although rarely as yellow as those of Edwardian London, are just as common as the ones so vividly described by Wilde.

View Database Records from this Essay

Posted by Alan Ritch at 02:10 PM

December 20, 2003

Hay in winter.

Camille Pissarro. Farm at Montfoucault, snow effect. 1876In both art and literature, hay is associated most commonly with high summer, the season of its production, but its primary importance is surely experienced in winter, the season when animals are most heavily dependent on it for their survival. Hay stores and conveys the growth of summer and the energy of long days and the high sun from one solstice to another. Haystacks, burrowed into, were the thatched cottages of the rural homeless, of dogs and cats, and the rodents on which they preyed. Hay made the beds both of vagrants and the the legendary bairn of Bethlehem.

And winter hay attracted at least a few painters for its vivid golden hint of June among the black and white austerity of dark December. Several Impressionists tried to capture the elusive 'effets de neige' the flickering reflective effects of snow on winter landscapes, both urban and rural. Monet's famous meule series, (grainstacks, alas, not hay, and consequently disqualified from this essay) contrasted the warm complex color of the straw with the equally complicated reflectivity of the surrounding snow.

This more homely Camille Pissarro painting (Farm at Montfoucault, snow effect. 1876) shows a farmer, followed by a sheep, carrying a bundle of hay into a snow-covered farmyard. Austere whites dominate the composition, but there is warmth in the stone walls of the farm buildings, in the sheep's fleece, and especially in the hay.

This essay, one of several at our hayinart.org web-site, brings together a few other works of hay in winter to celebrate the winter solstice and to send season's greetings to our friends.

William Mark Fisher. Snow scene.  1894 The orchard trees lack leaves and fruit, and the grassless ground is iron beneath its icy load. But the snow-capped stacks, loaf-shapes baked in summer, promise sustenance beyond the fence that guards them. This painting, now in London's Tate Gallery, is by the American impressionist, William Mark Fisher. Fisher was influenced by George Inness in New England and Alfred Sisley in France, but inadequately appreciated in both places, and so he moved to Britain, where George Moore described him, with generous exaggeration, as "England's greatest living landscape painter."

Sir George Clausen. Frosty March morning. 1904 Sir George Clausen's rustic naturalism illustrated here in a another work in the Tate Gallery, painted twenty years after Fisher's, shows pre-impressionist French influences, such rural realists as Lhermitte and Millet. Although chronologically belonging to the early twentieth century, this painting of a farmworker digging up a frost-bound garden allotment evokes the style and sensibility from a much earlier era. While Fisher's trees are sharply angular and calligraphic, Clausen's background elms and oaks recede into the cold mist of ann unmistakably English winter horizon. Even the warmly painted central haystack is edged in hoar-frost.

George Inness.  Snowy haystack. 1889 The 1880s landscapes of George Inness are far from his earlier Hudson River School style. Many of them are at once gloomy and glamorous, influenced, according to the scholars, by the painter's interest in the work of the Swedish scientist-turned-mystic, Swedenborg. This dark powerful work, with heavy shadows across the sky and much of the foreground, has at its center, a winter haystack, half-cut, capped by snow, and lit by a low sun. The brooding clouds threaten overhead, but the face of the stack, bisected by a ladder and its faint shadow, evokes comparison with the famous Fox Talbot photograph made at Laycock, England, some forty years earlier.

Kay Jacobson. Snowy stacks in the Big Hole, Montana.Alex Harris. From the series 'Red White Blue and God Bless You,' 1982.

Few places in North America are as challenging in winter as the Big Hole basin in southwestern Montana. But this swampy valley, inhospitable to the heavy machinery of modern hay-making, produces millions of tons of fodder, piled into loose, lumpy stacks during the summer months and keeping thousands of cattle alive during the winter, when horse-drawn sleds drag it across the frozen marsh. Two Big Hole stacks in winter are in the left image, above. The other photograph in this pair shows the delivery of winter hay in a drier climate that can still drop deep snow on the Sangre de Cristo range. Alex Harris shows animals feeding on hay strewn in a large white field near the mountain village of Las Trampas, New Mexico. The Harris image was on the cover of the 1985 anthology of essays by J. B. Jackson, entitled The Essential Landscape. The photograph itself is an "essential" depiction of our theme: animals floating on an island of fodder in a sea of snow.

Paul Salisbury. Haystacks. 1965.
Joe Allen. Winter haystack. 1986

Two paintings, two decades and worlds of style and taste apart, show respectively Paul Salisbury's literal account of feeding stock in the snow in Utah, and Joe Allen's abstract composition which includes signs of haystack shapes and areas of white which might be snow. This juxtaposition of nostalgic, regional realism and decorative modernism, shows the range of artistic purposes to which winter hay can be put.

Hippolyte V. V. Sebron.  Broadway in Winter, 1855.David Milne. Haystack, 1923.
Rene Billotte.  Paysage, neige a la porte d'Asnieres, n.d.Robert Duncan. Four horse power, [nd, recent?]
Franklin Brownell. Hay sleds, Byward Market, Ottawa, 1916.Patty Fox. Winter feeding at the Clubine, [nd, recent?]

The above gallery of winter hay paintings illustrate a wide range of places and styles. At top left is an 1855 oil painting by the French American artist, Hippolyte Sebron, of New York's Broadway on an icy day. The horse-drawn sleds at the center of the frame, below the focal, distant spire of Trinity Church, are loaded with hay, either for the warmth of the passengers or to fuel the draft-animals that were the primary motive power of the mid-nineteenth century city. A detailed description of the buildings in the painting is provided by the Museum of the City of New York which owns it. Below the Sebron is Rene Billotte's late nineteenth century (?) image of bleak suburban street scene. The high load of hay heading into Paris provides the only warm color in a composition dominated by greys and whites. At lower left is another urban landscape, from early twentieth century Canada, Franklin Brownell's draft horses steaming in the snow of an Ottawa market to which they have dragged sleds of hay. The delicate image at upper right is from the same period and is also the work of a Canadian, David Milne, but his haystack in snow so deep it almost buries the foreground fence, reflects the serene isolation of a frontier farm in winter. The two other paintings on the right both focus on the work required to deliver fodder to ranch animals in the mountain west during the cold season: Robert Duncan's hay sled dragged by four big horses, flanked by collies and trailed by hungry Herefords; and a recent water color sketch by Patty Fox, Elko, Nevada, of winter feeding from a horse-drawn wagon in a roadless snow-field.

Currier and Ives, after G. H. Durrie.  Home for Thanksgiving. We conclude this seasonal essay with three quintessentially nostalgic lithographs by Currier and Ives. The one at right (after George Durrie) depicts a young man, having returned to the family farm by sled, being greeted by his family. In the background a large barn with an open door shows the hay stored within; beyond is a haystack with snow on top. May all the homes you return to during the holiday season be as warmly welcoming as this Durrie farm-house.

The two other lithographs shown below also celebrate New England husbandry. The one at lower left shows a barn so full of hay that additional stacks, each mantled in snow, have been built outside. A similar message is evident in the other image. Both include cattle standing in the snow, one nibbling at the edge of a stack, to remind us of the purpose of our theme.

May your metaphorical barn have enough metaphorical hay to nourish you and yours through every metaphorical winter. And if your world is web-mobile, please keep visiting our home of hay at www.hayinart.org -- hay, it's the fodder of all web-sites.

Nathaniel Currier. Farmyard in Winter, 1861.Nathaniel Currier. Old homestead in Winter, 1864


As our snow-less California coastal winter has wetly yielded to a snow-blossom spring, several more cold season hay pictures have been added to the database. Here are more than two dozen additional images. Go to the database for information about them, including their sources.

Photos from the '40s: 1. John Vachon, South Dakota, 1948 (ID 1453); 2. Sol Libsohn, New York State, 1947 (ID 1450).

John Vachon.  Bringing in feed, South Dakota. 1948.Sol Libsohn.  Hay sled, New York State. 1947.

Hay sleds of US and Russia: 3. Michael Lewis, Colorado, 1993 (ID 1803); 4. Dean Conger, Russia, c 1975 (ID 1662).

Michael Lewis. Hay sled, Colorado. 1993.Dean Conger. Hay sleighs, Russia. c 1975.

James Ravilious, Devon hay, dogs and snow, 1978: 5. (ID 1674); 6. (ID 1676).

James Ravilious. Farmer carrying hay down snowy road. 1978.James Ravilious. Man, hay, dogs in snowy field. 1978.

Winter twilights: 7. James Ravilious, 1978 (ID 1675); 8. Kathleen McLaughlin, Shepherd, Romania, 2000 (ID 2131).

James Ravilious. Farmer feeding sheep in blizzard. 1978.Kathleen McLaughlin, Shepherd,Romania, 2000.

Hans Kleiber's Wyoming winters: 9. (ID 1169); 10. (ID 1170).

Hans Kleiber. Winter ranch scene.Hans Kleiber. Along the Rockies.

19th century Slavic sleds with hay beds: 11. T. Axentowicz, Carpathian mountaineer's funeral, 1882 (ID 1592);
12. Vasilii Surokov, Boyarynia Morosova, 1887 (ID 1593).

T. Axentowicz. Carpathian mountaineer's funeral. 1882.Vasilii Surikov. Boyarynia Morosova. 1887

17th century Dutch oil, early 20th century German oil and late 20th century Russian movie still: 13. Hendryk Avercamp, 1608 (ID 1196);
14. Gabriel Munter, Spreufuhren, 1910 (ID 2000); 15. Andrei Konchalovsky, 1993 (ID 1222).

H. Averkamp.  Winterlandschap met ijsvermaak. 1608. Gabriele Munter, Spreufuhren, 1910.Andrei Konchalovsky.  Rabia ma poule. 1993.

Fodder for elk in the Rockies, bison in Poland and sheep in the Cotswolds: 16. Steven Leek, Wyoming, c 1906 (ID 1366); 17. Raymond Gehman, Bison coming to fodder, Poland, 1992 (ID 1814). 18. [unknown photographer], 1964 (ID 1631).

Steven Leek.  Feeding hay to elk. c 1909. Raymond Gehman, Bison coming to fodder, Poland, 1992.unknown. Bringing fodder to sheep in snow, 1964.

Traditional and modern hay in snow: 19. John Hutchinson, Winter hay stacks, New England (ID 1268);
20. Joseph Sohm, Tractor lifting bale, Montana, c 1993 (ID 1812); 21. Tom Otterness, Hay makin hay, Montana, 2002 (ID 1139).

John Hutchinson. Winter hay stacks.Joseph Sohm. Tractor lifting large bale, Montana. c 1993.Tom Otterness.  Hay makin hay, Montana. 2002.

A pair of Russian winters: 22. Nikolai Lukashuk. Haystack. 2003. (ID 2311). 23. Nikolai Repin. By the haystack. (ID 2314).

Lukashuk. Haystack. 2003.Repin. By the haystack.

Three winter woolies: 24. Lisa Graa Jensen. Winter woolies. (ID 2617).
25. Margaret Loxton. Carrying hay to sheep in winter. (ID 2629). 26. Margaret Loxton. Taking hay to the sheep by tractor. (ID 2630).

Jensen.  Winter woolies.Loxton.  Carrying hay to sheep in winter.Loxton. Taking hay to the sheep by tractor.

Another Kay Jacobson image from the snowy Big Hole: 27. Winter haystacks near Wisdom, MT (ID 2091).

Winter haystacks near Wisdom, MT. c 2000.

Four for the animals.

28. Feeding winter hay to deer in New Zealand (ID 2177). 29. Hay-sleigh, Colorado (ID 2178).

Fleming.  Farmer feeding red deer. 1986.Conger. Horse-drawn hay-sleigh, Colorado. 1968.

30. Sheep in the hay (ID 2754). 31. Dog on hay sled, France (ID 2179).

Campbell. Sheep in the hay.Garanger. Dog on hay-sled, France.

Three generations of home and the winter hay:
32. Durrie's Returning to the farm, 1861 (ID 2410). 33. Payne's Homewards, 1921 (ID 2469). 34. New Yorker cover, 1949 (ID 2198).

Durrie. Returning to the farm. 1861.Payne. Homewards. 1921.Garrett Price.  New Yorker cover. 1949.

Two more recent winter haystacks from Russia:

35. Lukashuk. Haystack. 2004 (ID 2761). 36. Nurtdinov. March in the village. 1998 (ID 2765).

Lukashuk. Haystack. 2004.Nurtdinov.  March in the village. 1998.

One last star from last year:

37. Gloria Kimball, Christmas ornament -- feeding stock from a sled near the Tetons, 2003 (ID 1252).

Gloria Kimball.  Christmas ornament. 2003.

View Database Records from this Essay

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:35 PM

December 09, 2003

Hutch's hay.

Checking the hay cocks at high tide. [Courtesy photo]One of the delights of webwork is that the risks of open access are more than offset by the benefits of wide exposure to the gaze of expert strangers who often become instant friends. An especially gratifying example of this virtual community development has been the email we’ve been receiving from John Hutchinson of Salem, Mass. John is as interested in the traditional salt haymaking in the marshes of the Atlantic coast as we are. And he’s certainly more knowledgeable. He’s kindly given us permission to upload his comments, paintings and photographs to our site. So here they are.

First a Lowell poem and then one of John’s own. (8 December, 2003)

Sudden shower, Newbury marshes
Martin Johnson Heade. Sudden shower, Newbury marshes.
“DEAR MARSHES! vain to him, the gift of sight
Who cannot in their varied incomes share,
From every season drawn of shade and light,
Who sees in them but levels brown and bare;
Each change of storm and sunshine scatters free
On them its largess of variety,
For nature with cheap means still works her wonders rare!"


“Dear Alan,
I have downloaded your piece on Heade's Hay which I will take to bed and read tonight. It looks fascinating. I can't wait. I am sending by US Mail a package of marsh stuff you may enjoy.

“Not to be outdone by the above splendid poet, and fresh from reading Shakespeare with my 13 year old daughter, I give you:

John Hutchinson. Haystacks in snow“This Monday afternoon just one day since
A weekend blizzard lay two feet of snow
Upon the marshes of New England's coast
I hied me up Route 1 with faithful dog
To Rowley where the hay stacks stand all stark
Upon the whitened marsh with snow o'erlain,
Good Mother Nature's blanch-ed mantle pure.

John Hutchinson. Elizabeth and Blocker, Rowley Marsh“Alas, the day's warm sunshine had disrobed,
Or partially undressed each marsh hay mound
Her glor'ous bridal dress and pristine veil.
Their cedar legs showed clear 'neath lifted skirt,
Exposed to painter's wanton eager stare
The earthy beauty that beneath them there
Showed warm sienna in the sundown rays
Beauty exposed to any eye that cared.”

JWH 8.12.03

“I had wanted to look again at the hay stacks as they appear in the one season Heade never troubled with. There's plenty of beauty there even at this the bleakest season. I remember tramping the Newburyport marsh once many winters ago after a particularly hard freeze. The ice and snow-filled canals and trickles had been subjected to a big tide, which had pushed the ice slabs every which way in the waterways and up over their lips, and then receded to turn the surface of the marsh into a bleak and cratered extra-terrestrial white and black wilderness.

John Hutchinson. Winter hay stacks
“Today a white blanket lay soft over the marsh surface. Inexplicably, I had left one boot behind and so was restricted to watching from the roadside as the sun set. We left her pristine surface unmarred by canine or human footprint.

(November 25, 2003:)

“Dear Alan,

“I have been painting marine scenes for 35 years. My style owes much to Salmon/Lane/Heade et al, whose work I have worshipped for as long. My subject matter is nostalgic in feel if not subject matter. I'm a yankee who has lived in Salem, Mass., for over a quarter of a century. I delight in being in the heart of Heade country. It was in perhaps 1970 a few miles up Route 1 from Salem in the town of Rowley that members of an area Rod Gun club persuaded a local retired farmer by the name of Brown to assist them in raising a half dozen salt hay stacks in the traditional manner on a stretch of marsh near the road at the edge of the Ipswich River. I was fortunate to have met Mr. Brown and talked with him before he went on to the Great Marsh Beyond. Unhappily the stacks have been over the years worn down by weather and vandals, but their remains sit on their staddles and are easily seen from the road.

John Hutchinson. Getting in the hay. “Farmer Brown told me a wonderful story of coming in from work on the marsh with his team of white horses at the end of a scorching August afternoon. For the entire day swarms of voracious green head flies had besieged both man and beast and left the unfortunate animals covered with blood. As they came up from the marsh onto the road a passing nosy female motorist came to a screeching stop ahead of Brown, alighted from her car and began to berate him for having beaten the poor horses. It was all he could do to calm the woman and persuade her that the blood was from swarms of biting green heads and that she refrain from phoning the MSPCA to report his ill-use of his poor animals.

John Hutchinson. Haystacks in Four Seasons"I live on an ocean inlet around whose edge lies a small but identifiable salt marsh, so I can observe its seasonal changes. I have spent many outdoors hours with my daughters and dogs tramping the Rowley, Gloucester and Newburyport marshes in all sorts of weather and seasons. In my studio I have a pair of marsh horse shoes ( very hard to come by), a beautiful marsh hay rake and a good deal of literature on the practice and economics of marsh haying. I wouldn't call myself an authority on the subject but rather an experienced enthusiast.

“I have a friend who owns what we think is an early Heade pencil drawing of the marsh as illustrated in the Stebbins books. It was through looking at Heade's work that I first came to love and appreciate the salt marsh.

“Now you can understand why I was taken by your site. I wonder where you are located and how you came to love these beautiful places.

“Regards, John”

(November 30, 2003:)

> Dear John:
> I was moved and humbled by your letter. It showed how far I have
> to go to complete my harvest. But it was wonderful to learn of your
> own enthusaism and experience. I hope that I or my friend Emily (whose
> family's in Connecticut) will be able to meet you in person in the
> not-too-distant future. Where exactly is your house on the marsh?
> I'm sure you knew everything I sent to you about Heade and the other
> Newburyport artists, but my neophyte excitement may have given you
> some pleasure. I'd love to learn more of what you know, bibliographic
> sources that might be accessible to me, references to or copies of
> images that are not on my list (I have several more hundred to enter,
> from other countries and from the twentieth century, but I'd be especially
> interested in other 19th cent. American hay paintings). Do you have any
> of your own work accessible via the internet?
> My own interest stems from my childhood on a Warwickshire (English Midlands)
> farm that still used draft horses into the 1950s. My appetite for knowledge
> of all kinds comes from ten years pursuing cultural geography at Berkeley,
> followed by 25 years as an academic librarian, ultimately head of the
> library collections, also at Berkeley. I spend vacations most summers
> in Montana, often helping bring in the bales on a large cattle ranch,
> but I much prefer the loose hay making one can still see in the Big Hole
> marshes in the southwest corner of the state, and I still like to travel
> to the traditional haymaking areas of western Ireland and eastern Europe.
> Since I've been working on the virtual haystacks, I've been in frequent
> correspondence with a fellow 'hooi' lover in the Netherlands, Wim
> Lanphen. If you don't know his wesite and would like to visit, I'll
> send you the address in my next note.
> Yours haythfully,
> Alan

John Hutchinson. Elizabeth, Christina & stackJohn Hutchinson. Staddle & Blocker

(November 30, 2003:)

“Dear Alan,

“Thank you for your kind and interesting reply.

“What a world it is out there on the marshes! Yesterday I visited with a woman who lives on the Sandwich marshes on the north side of Cape Cod at the foot of Massachusetts Bay. She is commissioning me to do a watercolor of a catboat tied up to the bank of a marsh creek. Her house is part of an upscale development of million dollar homes whose roadway names, such as 'Heron Way' and 'Marsh Hawk Path', have been sandblasted into large imported blocks of non-indigenous granite and placed at the road intersections. God knows! The developer must have greased the palms of local bowling-pin planning board members in order to have been allowed to put up those immaculately-lawned, over-architected abominations. Imagine what kind of damage the lawn fertilizers must be doing to the life in the marshes which surround these palazzos! The newcomers love the marshes though they rarely seem to walk them. Few now realize their value to the farmers who once lived along their edges and depended on their bounty.

“Leaving Sandwich I crossed the Cape Cod Canal and was soon driving alongside the great Marshfield marshes which were represented in Heade's work. They are this time of year in my opinion at their loveliest.

John Hutchinson. Gundalows Carrying Hay

“I wonder if you are familiar with such terms as ‘staddle’ and "gundalow"?* Do you have any salt marsh-related literature? Are you familiar with John Stilgoe's ALONGSHORE, which you ought to be able to find in almost any serious library or bookstore; he devotes a very informative chapter (with many source notes) to the salt marsh.”

“I would like to be able to be in contact with Emil[y]** and your friend in the Netherlands,*** if you could help. Neither I nor my computer is adept at sending images onto an email letter. Could you please let me know your mailing address?

“ Regards,

*[see our collection of ‘Hay Words’ at http://www.hayinart.com/000141.html We had staddle but not “gundalow” which is not even in the Oxford English Dictionary online version but is very googlable on the web--AR]

**[Emily Reich, technical whiz, who does our hay-tml work and is emily@chocolatespoon.com --AR

*** [Wim Lanphen, founder of the first (Dutch) hay web site http://www.hooiberg.info/engels/index.htm is w.lanphen@hccnet.nl ]

Posted by Alan Ritch at 03:45 PM | Comments (6)

December 04, 2003

Heade's hay.

Heade’s hay.

Haystack with pointed top, 1868 drawingOf the hundreds of artists who have represented hay in their work, the one who has depicted hay most often is the nineteenth century American Luminist painter, Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904 ). Our virtual collection now includes about 120 (roughly twice as many as those produced by the second most prolific hay painter, Camille Pissarro).
Newburyport marshes: passing storm
Most of these 120 can be reductively summarized to variations on the same motif cluster: several haystacks, usually one large and others diminishing in size to draw the eye into and across the landscape; a sinuous tidal waterway serving both as another perspectival device and a mirror to amplify the presence of the stacks; flat marshland, sometimes framed by willows or low fluvial terraces; sunlight and sky in the process of imminent rapid change, either at dusk or under the influence of passing storms or the filtering of transient fogs; and a barely conspicuous human presence, wagons being loaded, ruined wagons or staddles collapsing into the marsh, and tiny workers or hunters or fishermen, investing the omnipresent stacks with even more monumentality.

Marsh at dawn
Marsh at dawn
Newbury hayfield at sunset
Newbury hayfield at sunset

Ipswich Marshes on Stebbins' title pageHeade’s hay works were long neglected in comparison to the more grandiose landscapes of the Hudson River school and others of his contemporaries. But in recent years they have been increasingly appreciated and thoroughly documented, most notably in the magisterial biographies and catalogues of Theodore J. Stebbins. Stebbins identified, described and reproduced well over 100 hay images in his Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonnee (Yale University Press, 2000). Significantly, Stebbins and his publishers give pride of place to the hay images by assigning to the title page a reproduction of "Ipswich Marshes" (our ID 216, see at right and below), almost as large as the original. Immediately below are two Heade hay paintings which escaped Stebbins and subsequently emerged from obscurity into the sales galleries. Two other newly emerged Heade hay paintings are shown at the end of this essay.

Marsh sunset
Marsh sunset
Marsh scene with cattle and a bridge
Marsh scene with cattle and a bridge

Turning the pages of Stebbins' monograph is more mesmerizing than monotonous, his images more comparable to a collection of the still-lifes of Morandi than the meules of Monet. All the Heade hay compositions are similar but none are identical. Their consistently panoramic shape, twice as wide as high, makes the most of their modest size. Seen together or in quick succession, they seem like frames in a documentary movie in a wide-screen format.

View at Southport, Connecticut
View at Southport, Connecticut
Sunrise on the Marshes
Sunrise on the Marshes
Duck hunters in a twilight marsh
Duck hunters in a twilight marsh
Marshes at Rhode Island
Marshes at Rhode Island
Newburyport marshes
Newburyport marshes
Summer showers
Summer showers
Newburyport marshes: approaching storm
Newburyport marshes: approaching storm
Newburyport marshes: passing storm
Newburyport marshes: passing storm
Sudden shower, Newbury marshes
Sudden shower, Newbury marshes
Marshfield meadows, Massachusetts
Marshfield meadows, Massachusetts
Salt marsh hay
Salt marsh hay
Salt Marshes, Newburyport, Massachusetts
Salt Marshes, Newburyport, Massachusetts
Winding river, sunset
Winding river, sunset
Ipswich marshes
Ipswich marshes
The great swamp
The great swamp
Marsh scene: two cattle in a field
Marsh scene: two cattle in a field
Storm over the marshes
Storm over the marshes
Newburyport meadows
Newburyport meadows
Hayfields: a clear day
Hayfields: a clear day
Marsh scene, sunset --sketch
Marsh scene, sunset --sketch
Marsh with a hunter
Marsh with a hunter
Sunset on the Rowley marshes
Sunset on the Rowley marshes
Jersey meadows with ruins of a haycart
Jersey meadows with ruins of a haycart
Sunset, haywagon in distance
Sunset, haywagon in distance
Marshfield meadows, Massachusetts
Marshfield meadows, Massachusetts
Jersey meadows, with distant hills
Jersey meadows, with distant hills

The year 2000 was notable not only for the publication of Stebbins' catalogue raisonne, but also for the excellent travelling retrospective exhibit of Heade's paintings, well received in Boston, Washington and Los Angeles, but ambivalently reviewed by Sanford Schwartz (New York Review of Books, February, 2000, pp.10-12. Schwartz “surrounded in one room at [Heade’s 1999 retrospective], by a dozen marsh paintings [felt] confined with an artist who was less an explorer of his theme than a victim of the need to keep redoing it.” (p.10).

Gremlin in the studio, IITwo of Heade's paintings indicate that he was actually amused by his preoccupation. Each shows a little happy face on a stick body peeking from under a crude studio trestle on which a marsh hay painting stands. Neither seems to depict precisely another Heade hay painting, but both resemble in their elements, oh, about a hundred other Heade works. Even the relative dimensions of the pictures in the picture conform to the other horizontal marsh paintings, but the anecdotal gremlin mischievously draining the marsh water onto the studio floor adds another few inches to the bottom. One of them "Gremlin in the Studio II," was reproduced on page 127 of the recent Hudson River School catalog (published by Yale UP in association with the Wadsworth Atheneum which owns the painting). The excellent commentary notes: 'By virtue of their subject, Heade's marsh paintings already depart from any picturesque ideal, and the impish gremlin...further heightens the viewer's awareness of the paintings as a representative object, an image of nature that should not be confused with nature itself.' (p.126)

We assume that few people, confronted by more than a few marsh haystack paintings, experienced the claustrophobia about which Sanford Schwartz complained. Most viewers would be exhilarated by the chance to see them together to compare their subtly shuffled elements and the play of light across the familiar stage. And so this essay, illustrated by over thirty Heade hay images, and our systematic database which lists them all, bring as many as possible into the same virtual museum. We trust that visitors to this hay world will share our appreciation of Heade’s genius in representing the spaces and places of salt marsh hay. They are at once timeless and ephemeral in the context of tidal and diurnal rhythms, in their fleeting conditions of light and weather, and in their monumental artifacts which, transformed by changes in agricultural technology and largely displaced by East Coast urbanization, endure now only in a few preciously preserved coastal inlets, in Heade's paintings and in the work of a few other late nineteenth century artists.

Heade's contemporaries, confronted by the same landscape, either subordinated the haystacks to the craft that plied the tidal rivers --

George Loring Brown. Medford marshes
George Loring Brown. Medford marshes
Frank Thurlo. Plum Island River
Frank Thurlo. Plum Island River

or were awkwardly imitative and not nearly so accomplished as Heade himself.

Samuel Gerry. Gathering salt marsh hay
Samuel Gerry. Gathering salt marsh hay
William Bowlen. Sloop on a marsh creek
William Bowlen. Sloop on a marsh creek

Stebbins (p. 168-169) provides a detailed comparison between this chalk drawing by the Newburyport artist Bowlen and the more famous paintings by Martin Johnson Heade of the same marsh haystacks. This and other drawings once attributed to Heade 'make use of a one-point system of perspective, in which the haystacks and the banks of the river recede to a single vanishing point on the horizon' in contrast to Heade's more subtly dynamic suggestion of depth, which encourages the eye to move both into and across the picture.

untitled: sloop at sunsetHeade's current importance in the history of American art is reflected by the $1,006,250 sale (on December 7, 2003) of an inferior marsh painting in poor condition, and by the Heade 37 cent stamp to be issued in 2004 by the US Postal Service. Alas, the image will be of magnolias not marsh hay.

Marsh sunset.Another Heade from a private collection comes to auction in October, 2004. Given the recent sale price and significantly inferior condition of the "sloop at sunset" painting, the suggested price of this work ($400,000 to $600,000) seems low. But since I would have to sell my house to buy it, I must resist the temptation.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 04:45 PM

November 30, 2003

Haystacks on Trajan’s column.

trajanhd.gifAbout fifty-three years after Jesus Christ lay in the legendary hay manger of Bethlehem, Marcus Ulpius Traianus was born, at the other end of the Roman Empire and the other end of the social spectrum, into the family of a Roman Consul in Spain. At the age of about 45, Trajan succeeded Nerva on the Imperial throne.

Three years later he led Roman legions across the Danube into what is now Romania, to suppress the Dacians. The two Dacian wars were challenging but eventually successful; by 105 AD, Dacia was incorporated as a new province of the Roman Empire. The profits of these campaigns were invested both in infrastructure – roads, bridges, aqueducts and sewers – and in grand urban building projects to glorify the achievements of the conquering Emperor. These included a vast new forum, an enormous basilica, and an equestrian statue perhaps three times as large as the magnificent one which was built later for Marcus Aurelius and still dominates the Capitoline Hill today.

Trajan’s most remarkable monument is a 120-foot tall marble column with a spiral staircase on the inside and a spiral frieze carved on the outside. The carvings are vivid depictions of the Dacian campaigns, a series of stone vignettes showing the way the Romans fought, the food they gathered, and the scenery through which they passed. The column depicts over 2,000 figures, and trees, rivers, boats, walls, and towns, and, most importantly, it depicts haystacks!

Indeed, haystacks appear in the very first spiral, one of the few which would have been visible from the ancient Roman street. The Trajan Project of McMaster University includes intriguing speculation on how much or how little of the frieze would have been visible to Romans of the first century. The Project also supplies excellent outline drawings which make the essential details even more legible than they are in photographs. Our first haystacks, probably the oldest surviving haystacks in world art are shown in Panel B of the first spiral. trajan1b.gif

Unfortunately for our purposes the McMaster project did not select this panel as one of the hundreds which are more thoroughly documented in their black and white slides and commentary. Fortunately, another superb Trajan web-site, Bill Thayer’s Lacus-Curtius pages, as vast as the Empire itself, has a reasonably clear photograph of the first haystack and, equally usefully, has signposts to dozens of other sites which have information which complements the fine McMasterly presentation. Among them is the scholarly Victorian monograph on the column by John Hungerford Pollen, A description of the Trajan Column, London, 1874. Here are some relevant excerpts from Pollen’s text which, thanks to Bill Thayer, is now online in its entirety.

“Though Apollodorus [of Damascus] was the architect and sculptor chosen by the emperor, it is more than probable that much of the outline of these vast undertakings was suggested by Trajan himself.” [Pollen, Introduction]

According to Pollen, the first stacks shown on Spiral 1, are part of the essential supplies needed by the army for their campaigns. From Pollen, I. The Staging of the Expedition:

“Between the guard houses are scene stacks of forage brought to a sharp point, and thatched with reeds or rushes…lapping carefully over each other down to the ground. Besides corn and hay, firewood is piled up in logs…” [Spiral 1B]

These “stacks of forage” had been described in Columella’s De Re Rustica (ii, 18): ‘quicquid siccatum erit, in metas extrui convenient easque in angustissimos vertices exacui.’

Higher up, on the third spiral, other hayricks appear behind defensive palisades, along the banks of the Danube. From Pollen, X . Another Fortified Position:

“Trees are retained within the walls, and tents are distinguishable beyond them. To the left two soldiers carry another heavy beam. Below the main walls an enclosure of palisades set close together with pointed tops to protect meadows and rickyards. Two ricks thatched with rushes are seen over the palisades, and a small pier supported on tripod piles driven into the river is constructed for facilitating the embarcation, and for discharging barge loads of hay and provisions.” [Spiral 3 B]

trajan3b.gif This McMaster drawing illustrates the scene.

The stacks within the town are apparently similar in style to those among the Roman army supplies. Three inferences are possible from this consistency:
(1) there was no regional variation in haystacks between Rome and Dacia;
(2) the town had already been captured and the stacks were constructed by the Roman invaders;
(3) the stacks were generalized carvings done from non-specific instructions. The durability and efficiency of the conical bee-hive-shaped stack design (as in the meules of nineteenth century France) and its widespread geographic incidence support the first inference. But, given the descriptive vitality of so much the frieze, the third inference is less likely than the second one.

Other readers of this note and those more knowledgeable about the frieze itself and its cultural and economic context are encouraged to contribute their own speculations. We should be even more delighted to be given a reference to an earlier image of hay, in western or eastern art, in any medium. For now, the hay on Trajan’s Column must be recognized as the oldest, fully a millennium earlier than the next image on our list.

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Posted by Alan Ritch at 05:55 PM

November 06, 2003

Hay in art and literature: an outline of themes.

The Pencil, cover.In the introduction to his remarkable study of that small, humble object, the pencil, the engineering historian Henry Petroski noted that it “is so familiar as to be a virtually invisible part of our general culture and experience…” De Wint.  Haymaking.I am exploring a similar theme, equally hospitable to an eclectic and multidisciplinary approach. My subject, humble hay, has for millennia been a crucial part of human existence, an important catalyst in the transformation of humans from hunters to herders. Unlike other inventions which were part of the origin and dispersal of agriculture, hay was developed without requiring the patient, experimental domestication of specific plants. Unlike the noble grains, grass grew wherever livestock grazed. Cutting, sun-drying and storing herd animals’ native fodder helped save herder and herds from seasonal deprivation, slaughter or migration. The preserved surplus allowed animals and their dependents to survive cyclical duress, or seasons and years of insufficient rainfall or sunshine.

During the last few hundred years, while the content of hay has benefited from selective planting and crop cultivation, its form has been the object of increasingly frequent design innovations, each successfully substituting new efficiencies for traditional labor. From stone tools to metal, from hand tools to machines, first dragged by horses then driven by fossil-fueled horse-power, the artifacts associated with hay-making have changed its shape and its landscape. So hay serves as a mirror reflecting changes in ecology, economics and technology from the Stone Age, through the agricultural and industrial revolutions to the ongoing refinements of our own time.

Limbourg Bros. June detail.Like the pencil, hay is so much a part of our cultural environment that its ubiquity makes it virtually invisible except to those whose livelihood directly depends on it. If the pencil is the most basic tool of artists, hay has been one of their enduring subjects, a persistingly pleasing visual element from Limbourg’s dazzling illuminations to Lichtenstein’s dotted prints. Lichtenstein. Haystack #1 (Yellow).The hayfield is a picturesque arena of communal, seasonal work; the corduroy windrows provide texture and depth to the patchwork of summer fields; and haycocks, stacks and bales of various size and shape, have challenged generations of artists, diverse in style and philosophy, with their subtle sculpture, color and reflectivity. The soft, light-flickering impressionism of the traditional haystack, the more geometric cubism of early bales, and the gigantic, sculpted cylinders of modern, industrial hay, have attracted the aesthetic vision of hundreds of painters and photographers, yielding a specific genre somewhere between landscape and still life. Indeed, the French term for still life -- “nature morte” -- nicely captures the essence of hay art. Dead grass is given artistic life by its astonishingly diverse form, shape, color and representational style. And, if pencil and paper have long been the most basic media of the literate, hay has long been a potent and contradictory subject of literature, for example, as an evocation and environment of love-making and a symbol of death and evanescence.

Gauguin. Haystack near Arles.My continuing review of scholarship in a number of fields suggests that hay’s literary and artistic aspects have been largely neglected or ignored. A delightful exception is the Dutch website -- http://www.hooiberg.info -- created by Wim Lanphen who focusses more closely on the architectural aspects of hay buildings, but also includes a sampling of art and literature. My own contribution will be an anthology of paintings and photographs, poetry and prose, accompanied by my own thematic essays. I shall quote gratefully from those academics whose more scholarly excursions have not prevented them from seeing the beauty and importance of hay at the sides of the roads they travel. Haymaking, Warwick, 1920s.While the geography, economy and technology of hay will inform these pieces, as will my own childhood memories of horse-drawn haymaking in the English Midlands, my primary focus will be on creative phenomenology: how hay has been perceived and employed by artists and writers, who were not directly engaged in or dependent on its production.

© Alan Ritch, Santa Cruz, California, 2003

Posted by Alan Ritch at 09:20 AM

November 05, 2003

Missed stacks and mistakes: distinguishing between hay and straw and other heaps.

Monet. Haystacks at Giverny, 1885.Monet. Grainstacks, 1890. Because very few artists and art historians were also farmers, many of the so-called “haystacks” in western art actually depict stacks of wheat or other grain crops. For centuries before the hay-baler and combine-harvester dropped bales of similar dimensions in hayfields and wheat-fields, haymaking and harvesting created very different landscapes. In many parts of the world they still do.

Hay was cut from green grass with a scythe, laid in parallel windrows on the ground, dried and turned with hand-held or horse-drawn rakes after a few days of sunshine, raked by hand or horse-drawn sleds into “cobs” or “cocks” or head-high stacks in the field for further drying, then carted to the farmyard or barn where they were made into more durable ricks or stacks out of the weather’s way.

Grain crops were cut with scythe or sickle when the plants had already turned from green to gold; the fallen plants were immediately bundled into a sheaf, tied with a few straw stalks; then six to eight sheaves were leaned against each other to form a reasonably weather-proof stook or shook, which stood in the field until the sheaves were carted off to compose larger even more rain-resistant stacks, grain-ends in, cut-stalks out, either in a barn or left out in the fields.

Monet's Meules

The French meule can refer to either stack, but even a cursory examination of Monet’s famous meules (often casually translated as “haystacks”) reveals the essential differences between meules de foin and meules de grain. The latter cereal stacks, made of sheaves often used to be thatched as protection against the autumn rains and continued to stand in the fields through the winter months until the threshing (separation of grain from straw) was done, usually by the early spring. Many of Monet’s meules are highlighted with snow, and all of these and the other tidy cones in varying lights and seasons are grainstacks. His haystacks are relatively few, always done in the dappled light of summer, and to be even more precise, they are haycocks, small, shaggy, temporary heaps of hay, soon to be carted off to the farmsteads of Giverny. Here are some of his true cocks or stacks of hay:

Haystacks at Chailly at sunrise
Haystacks at Chailly at sunrise. 1865

And here is a representative sample of Monet’s more than thirty grainstacks, al from 1890-1891, justifiably more famous in the larger story of Western art:

monetwheatstacks.jpgmonetshad.jpg monetsnow.jpg monetmatin.jpg monetboston.jpg

Pairs of Paintings

Our database of hay paintings generally excludes other crops, except for the purpose of illustrating contrast in paired paintings:

Limbourg Brothers. Book of Hours, c. 1440
June - haymaking
Limbourg Brothers. Book of Hours, c. 1440
July – harvest

Bruegel. Haymaking 1565

Bruegel. Harvesters 1565

Haymaking by William Carlos Williams

The living quality of
the man's mind
stands out

and its covert assertions
for art, art, art!

that the Renaissance
tried to absorb

it remained a wheat field
over which the
wind played

men with scythes tumbling
the wheat in

the gleaners already busy
it was his own

the patient horses no one
could take that
from him

Thanks to the Harry Rusche an English professor at Emory University for juxtaposing
Williams' brilliant but mistaken conflation of hay and wheat with the haymaking image.

George Stubbs. Haymakers. 1785
George Stubbs. Reapers. 1785

Against the Grain

Our exclusion of the thousands of images of grain harvest scenes is pragmatic but regretful, since many of them, often mistakenly titled, depict harvested field patterns of stooks with great rhythmic appeal, and towering wagon-loads of sheaves and grainstacks even more architectonic than their hay equivalents.

Luttrell Psalter. “Harvest waggon” c1335-40.
N dell’Abbate “Le Vannage du Grain”
J F Millet “Autumn, the Haystacks” 1874
J J Veyrassat “Chargement de la Charette” Late 19th cent.
G Houston. “Landscape with haystacks” Stooks! 19th cent?
C Pissarro “Peasants and Haystacks” 1878
G Caillebotte. “Landscape with haystacks” c1874
E Bernard. “Moisson au Bord de la Mer”1891 Stooks?
L Lhermitte. “Gleaners” 1922

Hay in the Manger and Straw on the Floor

Hay, of course, is fodder for the animals; and straw is the inedible waste-product remaining after the grains have been beaten from it. The content of the great round bales in today’s landscape are not so easy to distinguish as the artifacts of harvest fields used to be, especially since the residual stubble of modern hay crops (such as alfalfa and Lucerne) may be as crisply regular as the chopped stalks of wheat or oats. But hay and straw both used to go into winter stables. When we look at old paintings of the interiors of stables, for example, in the hundreds of depictions of Christ’s Nativity or the ensuing Adorations of Shepherds and Kings or Magi, we can reasonably infer that if that straw-like material is in the manger, it’s hay, and if that hay-like material is on the floor, it’s straw (on the roof, it’s straw or reeds).

Domenico Ghirlandaio. “Adoration of the Shepherds” 1482-85
[hay in manger]
Correggio. “Nativity” 1528-30
[Christ on a bed of hay]
Pieter Pourbus. “Adoration of the Shepherds” 1574
[straw/hay at capital of column, straw/hay bundle]
Bartolome Esteban Murillo. “Adoration of Shepherds” 1665
[hay in manger]

The Last Straw

Another reasonable inference about hay-like iconography: the so-called “haystacks” on which Durer’s prodigal son is kneeling and Bodmeer’s Job is sitting are almost certainly heaps of manure, laced with straw bedding, given their locations in typical barnyards, and the artists’ probable intention to humiliate their subjects with as abjectly as possible!

Gabriel Bodmeer.  Suffering of Job. 16th cent.

Albrecht Durer. Prodigal Son. 1496

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Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:55 PM

October 29, 2003

Bosch's Wain's world: hay symbolism in the sixteenth century.

The wonderfully varied symbolic and metaphoric associations of hay mirror its cultural and economic importance in the history of humanity. Hay has variously symbolized wealth and poverty, sexuality, love, life and death. The somewhat dated saying in our own culture "That ain't hay" (meaning "that's not entirely worthless") is remotely connected to the beliefs and rituals of the Low Countries of Europe over half a millenium ago.

Below we quote at length from a brilliant iconographic analysis of the meaning of hay in 16th century religious art. While the most famous examples are the two versions of the "Hay Wain" of Hieronymous Bosch, the same theme is illustrated by Hogenberg's "Al Hoy" (a 1559 etching), "The Hay Wain" (an anonymous 16th century engraving), and "Christ Sitting on a Haystack" (an anonymous 16th century etching). Our text is also illustrated by the astonishing 1550-70 tapestry by a Brussels workshop, "Hay Wain in a Globe."

"[Hay] was a common motif in 16th and 17th century Netherlandish folklore. Its basic meaning was 'insignificance' and 'triviality'. Influenced by the religious and moralistic tradition, which viewed all 'worldly things' as vanity, hay served in vernacular literature as a symbol of earthly goods and worldly behaviour. The pursuit of material possessions and physical pleasure could thus be illustrated by people trying to grab handfuls of hay at any price. The outcome is fatal, as it is the devil who threatens humankind and entices it into earthly desires, leading ultimately to eternal damnation.

"Bosch did not invent the hay wain motif, which had previously appeared in 15th century songs. Hay wains also featured in urban parades, carrying emblematic personages with banderoles identifying them as different forms of objectionable behaviour. Several scenes in the foreground of Bosch's Hay Wain are comparable with the texts or prosen that appeared in the banderoles displayed in the parade. Other examples of behaviour that were characterized as 'hay' were gluttony, folly, lechery, avarice and deceit. In other words, the Hay Wain is a critical mirror of various objectionable and foolishly sinful forms of conduct, as reflected in the earliest interpretation of Bosch's painting. This comes from a text by Ambrosio de Morales (1513-91) about the 'Table of Cebes', a literary text dating possibly from the 1st century AD, which was drawn on several times by artists in the 16th an 17h centuries... '"hooiwagen ... in Castilian, amounts to "wagon of trivial things". This hay wain is thus truly a "trash cart" and its name matches its meaning...'

haywaininglobe-detail.jpg "Morales' view is correct and is not a reinterpretation. He knew the Dutch title of the painting and its metaphorical significance. 'Hay" had a variety of connotations for 15th century people -- earthly goods, avarice, triviality, transience and deception..."

Source: Paul Vandenbroek "Hieronymus Bosch: the wisdom of the riddle" in Hieronymus Bosch: The Complete Paintings and Drawings. Rotterdam: NAi; Ghent/Amsterdam: Ludion; 2001. The English version (Ted Alkins, translation) was distributed by Abrams. The quotation and illustrations are on pages 134-136.

42.jpg E. Haverkamp Begemann's commentary on a drawing by Frans Pourbus the Elder in the Yale collections cites another related Netherlandish proverb: "De werelt is een hooiberg; elk plukt ervan wat hij kan krijgen (The world is a haystack and everybody grabs from it as much as he can get)." The Pourbus drawing, in contrast to the other images in this essay, has no haywain, but the haystack in the center and the wisps being offered by the jesters to a woman, a monk and a soldier clearly signify both human greed and the triviality and transitoriness of our material possessions. (Haverkamp Begemann. European Drawings and Watercolors in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1500-1900. Yale UP, 1970. plate 260). Evidently, in light of the Vandenbroek and Begemann essays, our quest for all the hay paintings, may be simply a TRIVIAL PURSUIT!

Trivial footnote: both the Prado and Escorial versions of the Hay Wain triptych are reproduced in the Bosch book cited above. A close comparison of these reproductions leads me to question whether the version shown on the ambitious web site boschuniverse.org is from the Prado, as claimed, since it resembles more closely the one in the Escorial (see for example the shape of the label in the center of the lower frame). Oddly enough, the clever animation reveals the Pedlar on the outside of the triptych, and this IS from the Prado version.

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Posted by Alan Ritch at 10:38 AM