JiF commented on last night's post that he's attracted to figures in the open air. I well understand the allure.
As most of you know, I couldn't paint a believable figure if my life depended upon it. But that's not the reason that I haven't essayed figures involved in country pursuits.
I have seen a lot of ever-finer craft from my peers these last ten years. Often it involves the figure, either indoors or out. It seems to me that there a lot of painters, really talented ones, who mistakenly think that if you slap a young girl into a costume, you can place her at any garden gate and have a painting worthy of Clausen or Bastien-Lepage.
Ah, 'twere it only so easy! The paintings by the nineteenth-century painters had a resonance for their viewers. They were true to conditions, costumes, labors, etc., because the artists knew what they were talking about, backwards and forwards. Nowadays, a girl at the gate, with tattoo and mantilla isn't resonant. It makes a pastiche of something that was honest.
At least in my time living in the country, I have rarely seen people on foot working in fields, tending flocks, etc. I did once see two very old brothers tedding in a field the size of a postage stamp. It was so unexpected, especially as they might well have been in their early nineties, that I almost couldn't process the information.
This speaks to my point: I don't think you can just insert people going about ancient chores unless you can do so in a plausible way. I only see farmers in huge, air-conditioned tractors these days. Nobody's swinging a scythe or, for that matter, dredging a ditch.
The first painting below is by Erik Werenskjold, painter and book illustrator. This painting is in Copenhagen, where I had the privilege of seeing it. I'd never heard of Werenskjold. For my money this is a masterwork.
|Erik Werenskjold, Dredging a Ditch|
Anyone who's put up with me for any length of time knows that George Henry's Noon is a favorite of mine. I saw it at a show in London at the Barbican Art Gallery. It was my introduction to the Glasgow Boys.
|George Henry, Noon|
|Henry Herbert LaThangue, In the Dauphiné|
|Henry Herbert LaThangue, Shaking Down Cider Apples|
|Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing in the Nivernais|
|Anton Mauve, In the Vegetable Garden|
|Ruger Donoho, La Marcellerie|
|George Clausen, Ploughing|
|Winslow Homer, Boys in a Pasture, MFA Boston|
|James Guthrie, To Pastures New|
|James Guthrie, Women Working in a Field|
|Henry Herbert LaThangue, Surrey Hayfield|
|Henry Herbert LaThangue, The Watersplash|
|Jules Bastien-Lepage, Les bles murs|
|Jules Bastien-Lepage, Pas Meche|
|Aleksi Gallen-Kallela, Boy and Crown|