Thursday, May 20, 2010

Women with Scythes in Art

 Here are some works of art from which show women with scythes.  This contrasts with the typical depiction of the division of labor (dating back to the middle ages) showing men with scythes and women with hay forks and rakes.  

The earliest work I found having this theme is this 1825 oil painting by the Russian artist Alexei Gavrilovic Venetsianov, titled "Peasant woman with scythe and rake".
(Source:, The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia,
Hay in Art Database ID: 778)

This 1883 painting by Henry Bacon, titled "Peasant Girl", shows a young woman leaning on a scythe.  The background is an English landscape with a pair of swallows flying over the partially mowed field.  
 Hay in Art Database ID: 5097)

This photograph from 1909 Russia shows a field with more than 20 women using scythes.  The title is "Monastyrskii sienokos (Haymaking at the Leushinskii Monastery)", by photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii.  The larger linked photo shows better details of the one-grip snaths being used.
 Hay in Art Database ID: 3094)

This scene from Missouri dates back to the 1930s.  "This exhausted girl symbolizes farmers' eternal struggle with the elements, says painter John S. De Martelley.  He calls this picture No More Mowing".  -quoted from LIFE magazine article, "Harvest, it inspires fine crop of paintings", August 31, 1942, p. 48.

(Source: art today. NY World's Fair, 1939, p. 68. 
 Hay in Art Database ID: 3593)

This painting -- titled "Reaping" -- by Russian artist Arkadi A. Plastov was completed in 1945, and includes a woman in a group presumably using scythes.  From the Hay in Art Database notes:  " was included in the Russia! Show at the NY Guggenheim Museum in 2005... [the] catalog description, by Masha Chelnov, is worth quoting: ' Painted during the first summer after the end of World War II, Reaping shows the peasants' peaceful daily toil. Plastov himself was of peasant origin and lived in the village most of his life; the majority of his paintings are devoted to rural life and the kolkhoz (collective farm). The grass and flowers in the foreground are painted in with rich texture and the bright, broken brushstrokes characterstic of impressionism, which was to come under harsh criticism from government officials in the late forties.' With Harvest (ID 5036), 'Reaping' won the Stalin Prize in 1946."
(Source:  Bown, Matthew Cullerne. Socialist Realist Painting.New Haven: Yale UP, 1998. p. 232-233. Also, Russia! Catalog of the exhibtion at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in NY. 2005, p. 59.
 Hay in Art Database ID: 960)

Yet another work from Russia depicting a woman using a scythe, "Haymaking", by Yuri Kuznetsov, was created in 1987.  This oil painting shows a woman in the foreground cutting swaths across the field.  
 Hay in Art Database ID: 3179)