Le Faucher (The Mower)
Signed C Meunier
Inscribed with the foundry mark B. VERBEYST. FONDEUR. BRUXELLES.
Bronze with dark and light brown patina
Height 22" (55.8 cm)
Conceived in 1892 and cast within the artist's lifetime
Formerly private collection, North Rhine-Westphalia; in family possession since
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 is currently housed by the Musée Meunier in Brussels; his sculptures also form part of the Bochum Museum (Germany), the Musée d’Orsay (Paris) and the Getty Museum (Los Angeles).
The artist first exhibited in plaster at the 1851 Brussels Salon, then dedicating 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 turned to sculpture, and particularly to the depiction of the daily life of the working class, following a tendency that had developed already in the 1840s thanks to the work of Gustave Courbet (1819 – 1877) and Jean François Millet (1814-1875).
J.F. Millet, The Sower, 1850, oil on canvas, MFA, Boston (USA)
The conception of the Monument Au Travail (Monument to Labour) occupied the artist for the last twenty years of his career. The Monument 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, Meunier struggled to find a buyer for the piece, which was eventually purchased by the city of Brussels in 1903. The monument was installed only in 1930, twenty-five years after the artist’s death.
The present work is one of the numerous studies Meunier created to celebrate labourers towards the end of his career. The subject of the mower was particularly dear to the artist, who also created a painting of it, which is currently part of the Musée Meunier collection.
The piece represents a mower actioning a double-handed scythe. The figure’s broad shoulders, his firm stance and the definition of the clothing develops the monumentality of the composition, which is typical of Meunier’s language towards the end of the century.
Meunier, Le Faucheur, before 1905, oil on canvas, Musée Meunier, Brussels
The present work was cast by the Brussels-based foundry Verbeyst, which cast the majority of the sculptor’s work in bronze. Another cast of the same model, as well as a plaster version, are currently part of the Musée Meunier in Brussels.