Un Semeur (A Sower)
Signed C. Meunier
Inscribed with the foundry mark FONDU PAR VERBEYST POUR L'ATELIER CONSTANTIN MEUNIER BRUXELLES
Bronze with a rich brown patination, with lighter brown highlights
Height: 22 7/16'' (57 cm)
Conceived and cast circa 1896
Constantin Meunier was the leading Belgian sculptor of the late 19th century, as well as a prolific painter and illustrator, and one of the period’s foremost exponents of sculptural realism. The most comprehensive collection of his works can be found in the Musée Meunier in Brussels; his sculptures can also be found in the Bochum Museum (Germany), the Musée d’Orsay (Paris) and the Getty Museum (Los Angeles).
The artist first exhibited his works in plaster at the 1851 Brussels Salon, then dedicated himself to painting, following the advice of his mentor – the influential realist artist Charles de Groux. It was only from the 1880s onwards that Meunier returned to sculpture, and particularly to the depiction of the daily life of the working class, following a passion for the subject that had been developed in the 1840s by Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877) and Jean François Millet (1814-1875).
Millet, The Sower, 1850 Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (USA)
Meunier’s sculpture of Le Semeur or Sower was conceived around 1896 for the Monument Au Travail. The composition of the present piece mirrors that of the famous painting by Millet, as the sower advances forward with his right foot, holding a bag of seeds with his left hand and clenching a fistful of them in his right one. However, while Millet’s sower is depicted working in the fields, wearing raggedy clothes and not engaging directly with the viewer, Meunier’s composition is strikingly forward-facing and stripped down to its barest attributes – a pair of boots, trousers, the bag of seeds and a sleeveless top.
The creation of the Monument (Monument to Labour) occupied the artist for the last twenty years of his career. It reflected Meunier’s socialist ideals and his desire to endow the working class with a timeless aura. While numerous cities expressed interest in acquiring the work, it was purchased by the city of Brussels and was finished in 1930.
Monument au Travail, Brussels. Rue Claessens, Brussels
Meunier famously produced two monumental version of the Sower, one crowning the top of the Monument itself, the other representing the month of autumn in Brussels’ Jardin Botanique.
Le Semeur at the Jardin Botanique
Another version of the sculpture in the present size, with the same inscriptions and foundry mark, is in the collection of the Musée Meunier in Brussels. It was donated to the Meunier Museum by the heirs of the artist in 1936. Other large versions of the sculpture is publicly displayed at Plaza Ruben Dario (Buenos Aires, Argentina), while another is housed Carlsberg Glyptotek (Denmark).