Monday, March 3, 2008
Les Glaneuses (The Gleaners) by François Millet, 1857
Gleaning is picking for field scraps undertaken by the poor. It faded out of existence as a result of the efficient industrial revolution. The Gleaners was attacked by some for its depiction of the rural poor, either as a reminder of class division, or grotesque realism, which has no place in fine art. There is always room for the unattractive in art. Millet’s painting has been interpreted as a protest to the systematic extermination of the poor. If you think about it, the economically disenfranchised are already dead to the capitalist. Maybe not dead, by undead since they can still be employed as unskilled labor. Think about that the next time you watch Shaun of the Dead.