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This drawing depicts a young peasant woman, a subject favored by Breton. The French Naturalist painter was well known for his idyllic scenes of rural life. Although scholars debate whether this drawing was a study for a particular painting, its connection to Breton’s other illustrations of gleaners is unmistakable. This gleaner, wearing a bonnet, apron, and clogs, dominates the composition. She strides toward us with power and grace, echoing the classical sculptures of Nike (or Victory). She stands with her left hand on her hip as her right elegantly reaches for the hay on her shoulders. Her head is turned to the left, and her eyes gaze into the distance. Haystacks arranged behind her on the right and the sun dipping below the horizon line at the left suggests the end of a long day of work. The work is signed “J. Breton, ‘77” in the lower right.
written by Emma Lyandres, St. Andrews University, Scotland, 2022