Wood Choppers
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Wood Choppers about 1850
Millet created many scenes of peasants at work in the forest, gathering, cutting and binding bundles of firewood. This scene is likely to be one he observed around 1850 while working at Barbizon, near the Fontainebleau Forest, where he had escaped to following an outbreak of cholera in Paris. Wood gathering was backbreaking work, and those who lived from it led a harsh existence. Here, Millet shows the two wood-cutters (‘bucherons’) busy at work. The man in the foreground steadies the sticks with his foot, while straining to secure them into a bundle. The other man carries on with his task of chopping the branches to the required length. The relentless, monotonous nature of their task is emphasised by the vast stock of branches stacked on the left, as a small figure heaves another bundle onto the pile.

Glossary Open

Barbizon School

The Barbizon School were an informal group of artists who were active between about 1830-1870. The most important members of the group were Jean-François Millet, Théodore Rousseau, Charles Jacque, Jules Dupré and Constant Troyon. Both Camille Corot and Charles Daubigny were also associated with the group. The artists would gather to paint in the forest of Fontainebleau near the village of Barbizon, a name which later historians used to refer to them. They rejected the melancholic romantic landscapes favoured by bourgeois patrons, and instead sought greater realism in their work by drawing directly from nature. Some of their rural imagery of woodland, peasants and livestock was inspired by Dutch seventeenth century painting.

Barbizon School

Details

  • Acc. No. D NG 1237
  • Medium Black chalk and watercolour on paper
  • Size 46.90 x 30.80 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1919