This unfinished painting showing peasants carrying firewood dates from the last part of Millet’s life, when his works focused on the hardships of rural life. Millet described in a letter seeing “a poor, heavily laden creature with a bundle of faggots advancing from a narrow path in the fields. The manner in which this figure suddenly comes before one is a momentary reminder of the sad condition of human life, toil.” In this painting, the faceless figures trudge across the canvas in an act of backbreaking labor. The lack of detail adds to the starkness of the image, and the figures seem hunched into and restrained by the canvas. The heavy black outline of the central peasant recalls the work of Daumier, whom Millet admired.
Oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 39 3⁄8 in.
National Museum of Wales; Miss Gwendoline E. Davies Bequest, 1951 (NMWA 2478)
Courtesy American Federation of Arts