Jules Bastien-Lepage, October, 1878
Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884) was a French painter associated with Naturalism, a type of Realism. Born in a small village, his father worked at a vineyard and Bastien-Lepage took an early interest in drawing, especially for the fruit trees that grew in his grandfather's garden. His parents bought prints of paintings for him to copy and his father became his first art teacher. In 1867 he moved to Paris and was accepted into the École des Beaux-arts. After being wounded in the Franco-Prussian War, Bastien-Lepage returned home to paint the farmers and rural scenes of his home village. In the late 1870s, he had significant success and became known as the leader of his school. Although he painted some mythological, religious, and literary scenes, he was always best known for his portraits and scenes of rural life. Perhaps his two best regarded pieces, both in his lifetime and today, are Haymaking (1877) and his portrait of famed actress Sarah Bernhardt (1879). October is an excellent example of Bastien-Lepage's style and skill. It depicts the autumn harvest with these two women hard at work gathering potatoes, while other laborers are visible in the distance. The artist's soft palette and brushstrokes are perfectly balanced, with the scene taking on a bucolic idealism. This detail of the woman's face shows the great care that Bastien-Lepage devoted to his work and the beauty of every stroke of his brush.