Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Sower (1850)

Jean-François Millet: The Sower
Millet's 1850 piece "The Sower", which has come to be associated with the Social Realist movement, shows a peasant man striding through a plot of freshly tilled soil as he sows his crops. The sun shines in the top half of the painting just over the horizon to show that the peasant has risen at the crack of dawn in order to accomplish the day's work that lies ahead.

The painting is characterized as a Social Realist work because of its focus and subject matter, and additionally due to the manner in which the work is portrayed. Millet breaks from the traditional academic route with "The Sower" and it shows in his dark and muddy earth tones. Rather than idealizing the peasant man or ignoring him entirely, Millet portrays the peasant as a stocky, well-built young man wearing simple, practical peasant clothing.

When "The Sower" is looked at in light of its Social Realist associations, a whole new realm of icons and meanings can be grasped. The Sower himself or the peasant can be viewed as a sewer of social justice, a representative of the lower classes fighting for social mobility by sowing the seeds of protest and dissent. A bright sun is rising behind the peasant man indicating that the sower has the forces of social justice on his side. The sun rise can also be interpreted as a symbol of change, in the Social Realist sense; this would mark the change from the bourgeoisie middle class dominance of the capital industrial era in France to one of socialist enlightenment. []

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