It is morning, and the early sun illumines the distant plain, where ploughing has already begun. The light falls on the two figures as they walk down the sloping hillside.
They are dressed for their work in clothing which is plain and coarse, but which is perfectly suited for the purpose. The French peasants’ working clothes are usually of strong homespun cloth, fashioned in the simplest way, to give the wearers entire ease in motion. They are in the dull blues, browns, and reds which delight the artist’s eye. Such colors grow softer and more beautiful as they fade, so that garments of this kind are none the less attractive for being old. Ragged clothing is seldom seen among peasants. They are too thrifty and self-respecting to make an untidy appearance.
[Illustration: From a carbon print by Braun, Clement & Co. John Andrew & Son, Sc. GOING TO WORK]
The men wear soft felt hats, the brim of which can be pulled forward to shade the eyes. The women cover their heads neatly with caps or kerchiefs, and are nearly always seen with aprons. Men and women both wear the heavy wooden shoes called sabots, in which the feet suffer no pressure as from leather shoes, and are protected against the moisture of the ground.
The peasants of our picture carry all they need for the day’s work. A three-pronged fork rests across the man’s shoulder, and a wallet of lunch hangs from his left arm. The woman has a basket, a linen sack, and a bit of rope. Evidently something is to be brought home. Just now she has swung the empty basket up over her shoulders and it covers her head like a huge sunbonnet.
The two young people are full of the healthy vigor which makes work a pleasure. They go cheerfully to their day’s task as if they really enjoyed it. We cannot help suspecting that they are lovers. The man carries himself erect with a conscious air of manliness, and steps briskly, with his hand thrust into his pocket. The girl hides her shyness in the shadow of the basket as she turns her face towards his. The two swing along buoyantly, keeping step as if accustomed to walking together.
At the close of the day’s work the basket and sack will be filled, and the laborers will return to their home by the same way. The burden may be heavy, but they will bear it as the reward of their toil.
The picture of Going to Work was painted at about the same time as the The Sower, which forms one of the later illustrations of our collection. A comparison of the pictures will show interesting points of resemblance between the two men striding down hill. Though Going to Work is not as a work of art of equal rank with The Sower, we get in both pictures a delightful sense of motion which makes the figures seem actually alive.
[Footnote 1: That is, within a year. See dates in the Historical Directory.]