John Singer Sargent painted the landscape Reapers Resting in a Wheat Field in 1885 while visiting Broadway during the fall and summer. Broadway was a village in the English Cotswolds and was famous amongst American and British writers and artists because of its simple life still and beautiful surroundings. During this year, the artist injured his head in a diving accident, and Edwin Austin Abbey convinced him to settle down in Broadway to regain his health. He agreed and stayed in the village along with Jean-François Millet, Sir Edmund Gosse, Alfred Parsons, among others.
Although Sargent was an American painter, he began his career in Europe, being academically trained at an early age. While studying under the wing of Carolus Duran in Paris, he launched his career as a portrait artist – especially after the Paris Salon awarded the painter with an Honorable Mention for his portrait entitled Carolus-Duran in 1879. The artist had a great domain on traditional painting techniques but was encouraged by his mentor to step out of the box and trust his instinct, instead of blindly following the rules and methods of the academies. Sargent began experimenting in his work and eventually delved into Impressionism.
The same year Sargent painted Reapers Resting in a Wheat Field, he participated in an exhibit with his friend Claude Oscar Monet and other Impressionist artists in Paris, but his works didn’t get as much praise as the others. In this painting, Sargent portrays a group of workers resting in the field, a subject reminiscent of the Realists like Millet, who often depicted workers on the field. Sargent’s contact with Millet during this period undoubtedly influenced his production. Painted in a highly Impressionistic style, Reapers Resting in a Wheat Field is a representation of beautiful simplicity.
About half of the canvas depicts a golden wheat field with specks of green, brown, and purple. On the left side of the canvas, five men rest after a day of hard labor. Their sickles are stuck on the ground in a very symbolic manner. The background shows many haystacks, representing the results of the men’s hard work. The sky is blue-gray as if a storm was brewing, and there are many large and dark trees lined up on the far background.
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