Free Catalogue Entries Of “A Young Girl Reading” By Jean-HonorÉ Fragonard And “The Gleaners” By Jean-FranÇOIS Millet Essay Sample
Source: Musée d'Orsay 2006
“The Gleaners” (fr. Des glaneuses) is an oil painting by Jean-François Millet, a French painter who belonged to the Barbizon school. The painting was completed in 1857 and has a size of 33 inches by 44 inches.
Rural life was one of the favorite themes of Jean-François Millet, and this painting was the culmination of a decade of Millet’s research and work on the theme of the rural life in general and the gleaners in particular. It is one of the central works of Millet which was created at the time of his creative maturity and perfectly reveals the features of his artistic work (Fratello, 2003).
The paining depicts the rural life in France in the nineteenth century and shows three peasant women in a field at sunset; they are picking up the leftover stray grains of wheat the harvesters dropped hurrying to finish the harvest. This was known as gleaning, and it was usually undertaken by the poor peasants who were allowed to gather the unwanted leftovers after the harvest was finished on the landowner’s field (AHRB Centre for Environmental History, n.d.). In repetitive and monotonous movements of women we can almost feel the ritualistic repetitive rhythm of three phases: to bend down − to pick up the grains – to straighten up again briefly. Small bundles in their hands contrast with the rich harvest which can be observed in the background of the painting. There are many stacks, heaps, a wagon and a crowd of harvesters busy working.
Low horizon gives majesty to the major figures on the foreground: the rays of the setting sun illuminate the women from the background of the painting emphasizing their importance, and adding some color to their poor clothes (Murphy et al., 1999). Instead of depicting some pleasant and beautiful scenery, Millet chose as the subject of the painting the dignity of work and the working people. By means of his paints he showed the beauty of such unpretentious but eternal matters as the land and the people working on it. The images of peasants, as well as the appearance of nature are full of grandeur and solemn simplicity and are covered by wistful sadness.
Classical clarity and the realism of the composition, harmony of pale but pure tones, flowing silhouettes lines, soft golden light coming from the autumn sky which combines the spatial plans − all these elements create a sense of real life, the implementation of an artistic image into a masterpiece full of poetry (Murphy et al., 1999).
The artist was able to accurately convey the severity of the labor of the peasants, their poverty and humility (Fratello, 2003). It was necessary to have not only a deep respect for any work, but also to see the people doing it as your brethren in order to depict them with such humanity. However, the work caused various assessments and critics of the public which forced Millet to refer temporarily to more poetic sides of peasant life (Kimmelman, 1999).
Source: National Gallery of Art
“A Young Girl Reading” (fr. La Liseuse) is an oil painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, one of the most prolific French painters of the 18th century during the Rococo period. The painting was completed in circa 1770 and has a size of 32 inches by 25.5 inches.
Fragonard portrayed the girls who were engaged in reading or writing many times. But every time these images were overly flirtatious (Rosenberg, 1988). “A Young Girl Reading” is an exception to this rule. This picture was painted by Fragonard during the transition period when frivolous scenes began to go out of fashion, and he had to adjust his manner quickly, in order not to lose his place at the so-called ‘art market’ (Rosenberg, 1988). It is considered that there was no model for this portrait. Jean-Honoré Fragonard depicted a girl as a common image, an archetype of femininity (Artble, n.d.). The girl on the portrait has a simple and modest hairstyle; she is in a state of pensive calmness, delicately wrapped in a sunny yellow dress with white cuffs and collar and lilac ribbons which put and accent on her bodice, neck, and hair (National Gallery of Art, n.d.). The fresh face of a young girl with a gentle skin which looks and probably feels as tender as a peach is very charming. She is dressed in a bright, lemon-yellow dress, which generously reflects the light patches. The girl sits, leaning back on a purple pillow, which is shadowed by deep purple shadows. The portrait strikes the viewers by its depth and vitality. The fluidity of its contours is characteristic of the paintings of Rococo period (Artble, n.d.).
The girl is probably sitting at the window because her face and body are illuminated by light, and a light shadow is casted against the wall (National Gallery of Art, n.d.). The girl has inclined her head and she is fully absorbed in the book she is reading, or perhaps in a dream. As we cannot see any writing instruments on the paining, we may assume that the girl is reading for pleasure, not for research purposes (Artble, n.d.). Fragonard does not give the viewers an answer to the question what book is the girl reading, thus adding a scent of mystery to the portrait, and leaving the viewers the chance to guess what book that might be and how it may affect the girl’s thoughts and emotions. The background of this painting is simplified, thus putting an even greater emphasis on the appearance of the girl.
Fascinated by the female beauty of the girl or perhaps by the nature of femininity in general, Fragonard intends first of all to please the people who will look at this painting and to give them the sense of warmth and joy and warmth (Artble, n.d.). The portrait is a contemplation of the female beauty and the process of calm and pleasant reading.
AHRB Centre for Environmental History. Behind the picture. Accessed April 05th, 2015. http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~waste/timeline/story-pic1.html.
Artble. Young Girl Reading. Accessed April 05th, 2015. http://www.artble.com/artists/jean-honore_fragonard/paintings/young_girl_reading#artist.
Fratello, Bradley. France embraces Millet: the intertwined fates of The Gleaners and The Angelus. The Art Bulletin, Vol. 85, No. 4 (2003): 685–701. doi: 10.2307/3177365.
Kimmelman, Michael. ART REVIEW; Plucking Warmth From Millet's Light. The New York Times Company. Last modified August 27th, 1999. http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/27/arts/art-review-plucking-warmth-from-millet-s-light.html.
Murphy, Alexandra R., Richard Rand, Brian Allen and James A. Ganz. Drawn into the Light: Jean Francois Millet. Yale University Press, 1999.
National Gallery of Art. Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The Collection. Accessed April 05th, 2015. https://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg55/gg55-46303.html.
National Gallery of Art. Young Girl Reading. The Collection. Accessed April 05th, 2015. http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.46303.html.
Rosenberg, Pierre. Fragonard. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988.
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