Haymaking in the Auvergne

Haymaking in Auvergne - château de Fontainebleau - © RMN Grand Palais


Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)
H. 213 cm; L. 422 cm
Oil on canvas
Château de Fontainebleau, RF 2415
Carnot smoking room.


Deeply enamoured of rustic life, Rosa Bonheur set up her studio in Thomery, not far from Fontainebleau, where painting life in the fields became her favourite subject. This painting is inspired by numerous trips to Auvergne and Cantal from which she returned with a host of sketches of landscapes and animals. Here Rosa Bonheur depicts a haymaking scene, showing the hay being cut and harvested in June. A team of oxen is seen from the front, pulling a hay wagon in the early morning light. A peasant holds one of the animals by the horns, while various figures gather the hay in the surrounding fields. Your eyes are drawn to a man and woman on top of the hay bales at the back of the wagon. Its tranquil scene and beautiful light make the painting quite striking. The blue sky with inconspicuous clouds in the distance takes up half of the painting and the bright sunshine is evoked by the shadow of the wagon falling on the ground. The peasants seem almost suspended in time. The typical realist scene portrays an idealised vision of working in the fields. The work was commissioned from Rosa Bonheur after the Salon of 1853 by the Minister of the Interior. The artist had become very popular since exhibiting the Horse Fair in 1851. The château de Fontainebleau and Musée d’Orsay hold various sketches for this work which show how much research the artist carried out to produce it.

1997, Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rosa Bonheur retrospective.

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