Description of the picture:
Reapers – Alexey Gavrilovich Venetsianov. Canvas, oil. 66.7 x 55 cm
A.G. Venitsianov in his work paid much attention to the description of the life of serfs. He has several paintings on field work. One of them is the Reapers.
The plot of the picture is very poetic. In the short minutes of rest, the peasants, mother and son, admire the butterflies that have sat on the woman’s hand. Perhaps this scene Alexey Gavrilovich spied in life, walking in the fields near his estate, and she was so impressed by the artist that he decided to create such a work.
The models were real people – serfs, mother and son (Anna and Zakhar Stepanovs). We can see the boy in another famous picture of Venetsianov “Zaharka”.
“Reapers” is a light work, filled with quiet joy from contemplation of the beauty of nature. Compositionally, the Venetians bring the figures of mother and son to the forefront, they fill almost the entire space of the picture, attracting the attention of the audience. In the background are ears of wheat.
Although the plot itself is somewhat idealized, critics reproached the artist more than once, he portrayed real people with their own distinctive features and individual character. One can see with what love and respect the Venetians write them.
The boy’s face can hardly be called beautiful, it is rude in a peasant way, tanned by work under the scorching sun. But with what immediate childhood admiration he looks at butterflies. His deliberate face involuntarily attracts a look. Zakhara Venetsianov portrays having a craving for beauty and a genuine childish interest in the world around him. Although he is young, his hands are already weighed down with a heavy peasant share. But with what tenderness he takes on his mother, how much filial love is in this gesture.
The woman looks tired, but her ugly, rustic face illuminates a half smile. She patiently waits for her son to admire the butterflies. Her gaze expresses caring and motherly love. She looks at her son from the height of her past years, and if everything is new for him, then she understands that there will be few such bright moments in his life. The artist, with attention to detail, wrote a peasant outfit: a sundress, a white shirt, and a yellow scarf. I did not forget about the beads and the modest little ring on the finger.
Butterflies are drawn as living, about to flutter and fly out of the picture. This emphasizes the transience of the moment of meeting with the beautiful. Sickles in the hands of peasants close the composition, outlining an invisible circle and focusing the viewer’s attention on the faces of the heroes.
Venetsianov portrayed serfs as people with a fine mental organization, capable of experiencing deep emotions in relation to nature and to each other. His characters are beautiful internally, not externally. Not surprisingly, his work did not meet with contemporaries worthy of recognition. The serfs were then in the position of slaves. Nevertheless, Venetsianov was one of the first artists to express in his works the strength of spirit, dignity, and inner beauty of the common people.
The artist presented the “Reapers” as a gift to Emperor Alexander I for the Hermitage. Later, the painting was transferred to the State Russian Museum, where it is stored now."