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.