Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz)

Jean-François Millet, Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz), 1850–53. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Jean-François Millet (1814–75) cofounded the Barbizon school of painting, known for its movement toward realism and away from the romantic, highly emotional style prevalent in the mid-19th century. Millet spent more time on this painting than any of his other works and considered it his masterpiece. His goal was to turn the genre painting—or scene from everyday life—into a socially important statement. Here Millet portrays the resting harvesters at their midday meal, their attention focused on Ruth and Boaz, who are standing outside their circle. Ruth’s awkward stance and downcast eyes portray the unease she feels at joining the group. Boaz protectively touches her left shoulder, assuring her safety. This painting was the first recognized success for Millet; it earned him a second-place medal in the prestigious 1853 Paris Salon competition.

Jean-François Millet, Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz),1850–53. Oil on Canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

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