Standing in front of the pastel ‘La Fenaison’, the warmth of colour Léon-Augustin Lhermitte portrays in the wheatfield with the shimmering river in the distance is exquisite. His mastery of light in this medium as it catches the shoulder and hat of the farmer, the tips of the wheat and the reflections off the barn roof displays true refinement of his craft.
According to Vincent Van Gogh, Lhermitte’s secret was ‘that he knows the figure in general – namely the sturdy, severe workman’s figure – through and through, and takes his subjects from the heart of the people.’ His emphasis on the romantic, idyllic side of peasant life made works of this type extremely popular in the late nineteenth century. Van Gogh too hoped to establish himself as a painter of peasant life, and so Lhermitte’s work was an important source of inspiration to him.
His work also spread through commissions in illustrated magazines. Vincent Van Gogh wrote:
“If every month Le Monde Illustré published one of his compositions… it would be a great pleasure for me to be able to follow it. It is certain that for years I have not seen anything as beautiful as this scene by Lhermitte…I am too preoccupied by Lhermitte this evening to be able to talk of other things.”
Fitting then that ‘La Fenaison’ takes the lead in our newsletter. Lhermitte’s work can be found in prestigious museums worldwide, such as the Van Gogh Museum, The Smithsonian and The Met. You don’t have to travel so far to see Lhermitte, if you have the time do come and see this beautiful pastel in our Broadway gallery.