Becheurs (The Diggers) by Jean Francois Millet

Becheurs (The Diggers) by Jean Francois Millet

Becheurs (The Diggers)

Jean Francois Millet

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Becheurs (The Diggers)

1855 -56 
etching, printed in a dark brown ink 
Image Size
9 1/4 x 13 5/16" platemark 
unsigned, as usual in this state 
Edition Size
not applicable 
inscribed in plate in the lower right within image: Paris Imp. Aug Delatre R St. Jacque 171 
Melot 13; Delteil 13; L.14 
antique-white laid western paper 
Inventory ID

"The Diggers" and "The Gleaners" are considered by many to be Millet's signature prints. Millet did a number of drawings and paintings of "Becheurs", all in the same period, around 1855.

C. H. Collins Baker (Charles Henry Collins Baker), wrote about this work: "One of Millet's finest designs, this etching has a largeness of style and decorative purpose that would fit it to be enlarged to life-size. The spacing of the limbs, the emphasis given to rhythmic action and thrust-resisting lines are the outcome of profound science as well as of an instinct for great essentials. It seems improbable that the motif of this etching, the stubborn strength, the rude power of field labourers, will ever be better expressed pictorially. The character and life of these men is given us in this statement of, apparently, but a moment in their day. Their action and environment are made to carry a symbolic meaning; they typify a race of peasants. Thus Millet's work is monumental, giving once for all a general and enduring expression of peasant life and labour."

Baker, C. H. Collins (Charles Henry Collins), 1880-1959: Jean Fran├žois Millet, painter of labour [electronic resource]: XII scenes / (Toronto: Oxford University Press, H. Milford, [1916]).

In 1880 Vincent Van Gogh did a drawing of the composition and painted his own oil of the subject nine years later. Van Gogh discusses this in a letter to his brother Theo on August 20, 1880:

"Dear Theo, If I am not mistaken, you must still have 'Les Travaux des Champs' by Millet. Would you be so kind as to lend them to me for a short time, and send them by mail? I must tell you that I am busy sketching large drawings after Millet, and that I have already finished 'The Four Hours of the Day' as well as 'The Sower.'....

The Millets which I copied are, 'The Four Hours of the Day,' the size is almost that of a page from the Cours de Dessin Bargue. You will understand well enough what I want without my telling you, but I'll tell you anyway, so you'll know what I really think. It is especially studies of the figure like 'The Diggers' by Millet, or the lithograph after his 'Le Vanneur' [The Winnower]...." 

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