Title: The Gleaners
Date: 1854
Medium: Oil on canvas
93 x 138 cm
Signed: lower left: Jules Breton, 1854
Credit Line: Presented, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, 1950
Object Number: NGI.4213
DescriptionBreton exhibited this work at the Paris Salon in 1855, where it was praised by critics and purchased by a private collector for a large sum. The scene depicts women and children gleaning wheat. A garde-champêtre supervises as they gather the remnants of the harvest in their arms and aprons. Breton set the scene in the fields of his native village of Courrières in the Artois region. from the 1850s much of the inspiration for his work came from the agricultural and religious customs of this rural community. The model for the woman standing in the foreground was Elodie de Vigne, the daughter of Breton’s teacher, Felix de Vigne. She and Breton married in 1858.
In the early years of his career Breton was inspired by Courbet’s realism. However as his career progressed he tended to present idealised images of the lives of the rural poor. His figures became classicised, his compositions orderly and his landscapes bathed in golden light. Breton’s vision was undoubtedly influenced by the Arcadian landscapes of Nicolas Poussin in paintings such as Summer/Ruth and Boaz (1660-64; Louvre, Paris).

March 2016

ProvenanceIsaac Pereire Collection, from November 1855 until 1872; auction, 1872, Isaac Pereire sale; Sir Alfred Chester Beatty; presented, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, 1950
Exhibition HistorySalon, Paris, 1855

(?) Antwerp, 1855

Exhibition of the Chester Beatty Collection, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1950

The Realist tradition. French Painting and Drawing 830-1900, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; Brooklyn Museum, New York; St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis; Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, 1980

The Peasant in French 19th Century Art, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, 1980

Lighting up the Landscape. French Impressionism and its Origins, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1986

La Peinture Francais du XIXe siècle. Collection Chester Beatty de la Galerie National d'Irlande, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Quimper; Musée Sainte-Croix, Poitiers, 1989

French 19th and 20th Century Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland: Corot to Picasso, Daimaru Museum, Tokyo, 5 September-17 September 1996; Daimaru Museum, Kyoto, 10 October-22 October 1996; Kawaguchiko Museum of Art, Yamanashi, 26 October-2 December 1996; Daimaru Museum, Umeda,Osaka, 22 January-9 February 1997; Aomori Municpal Gallery of Art, Aomori, 2 April-20 April 1997

Jules Breton - Painter of Peasant Life, Musee des Beaux Arts, Arras, 15 March - 2 June 2002; Musee des Beaux-Arts, Quimper, Brittany, 15 June - 8 September 2002; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 25 September - 15 December 2002

Chester Beatty: The Paintings, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, 7 September 2012 - 31 August 2013; The Hunt Museum, Limerick, 1 February - 30 March 2014
Label TextBreton set this scene in his native village of Courrières, in the Artois region. It depicts women and children gathering the remnants of the harvest, under the supervision of a garde champêtre. The model for the woman standing at the right was Elodie de Vigne, the daughter of Breton’s art-teacher. She and Breton married in 1858. Although he admired Gustave Courbet’s bold Realism, Breton portrayed the lives of the rural poor in a more idealised manner.

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