Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Going to Work

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875),
Going to Work, ca. 1850-1851.
Oil on canvas, 21 7/8 x 18 1/8 in.
Glasgow Museums, Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove

In City vs. Country, 38-9, and Peasants and “Primitivism,” Robert Herbert argues that Going to Work (1851) was a present day expulsion from the Garden of Eden and writes:

“There is a nearly primeval innocence in these peasants setting out in the morning to dig potatoes, carrying their tools and a jug of water: a nineteenth-century Adam and Eve or a couple from Theocritus.”

He argues that Millet “secularises” the Expulsion story by dressing the peasant couple in contemporary garb and depicting them as a pair dignified through their stance and emotional composure, yet maintains the primeval theme of Adam’s curse.