Young Peasant Girl with a Hoe, 1882
Jules Breton (1827-1905)
A peasant girl rests at the edge of a field, a pensive expression on her face. Breton chose muted colours to portray the woman in her shabby clothes and the surrounding landscape, using simple forms to achieve a monumental effect. The simplicity of country life was a favourite subject for the Realists. Breton and his predecessors Jean-François Millet and Gustave Courbet endeavoured to depict unadulterated reality, painting the people and landscape as they saw them. Nevertheless their work is often a somewhat romanticised view of reality, Breton’s Peasant girl being a prime example.
Vincent van Gogh greatly admired Breton, who was both a painter and a poet. The sentimental element in his work appealed to the Dutch painter because, as he himself wrote, ‘one must have imaginative power and sentiment when painting. Fortunately realism and naturalism are not free from this.’