Picturing Labor in Nineteenth-Century France
Urbanization and industrialization during the nineteenth century greatly impacted popular notions of work, particularly the contrast between traditional rural labor and new types of work available in cities. In response, French artists increasingly turned to labor as a subject for their figural compositions, updating traditional aspects of labor subjects and realistically portraying contemporary workers. This exhibition of prints and drawings focuses on depictions of labor – both rural and urban, by men and women. Jean-François Millet’s works depicting sowers and harvesters inspired his contemporaries to explore such subjects, while other artists featured urban laborers including builders and laundresses as city life increased opportunities to observe varied types of work. Prints by Emile Bernard, Henri-Gabriel Ibels, Henri Rivière, and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen demonstrate how these artists developed their labor subjects to advance their particular stylistic or social interests.