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Comparison of the Stonebreakers and the Gleaners

Since time immemorial, people have searched for the means of addressing and representing their fears, lifestyles, success, and failures. They have done this using art, and a lot of art items can be traced back to the period many centuries ago. People kept migrating and they left inscriptions on the walls of the caves, drawings on stones, and clay pamphlets. These became the first documented works of art that were discovered since men wanted to continue with their creative work even after the onset of civilization. This made researchers in the field of art start investigating the growth of this area. They conducted a lot of researches and found out that the history of mankind could be relayed using the discovered works of art. This is because man has a great affinity for art and this trait has not changed in the course of human development. Most of the discovered works of art are documented and stored in many museums across the world; they are the ideal relics of the history of mankind.

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Most of the art periods borrowed their ideas from the Renaissance. This period was a time that marked a movement of cultures that greatly affected European scholarly life in the early contemporary period. This movement began in Italy and spread to other parts of Europe. By the 16th century, the influence of this movement was felt in many spheres of human life. The areas affected by this movement include art, literature, music, philosophy, politics, religion, science, and other aspects related to intellectual inquiry. Those scholars who worked in this period employed the humanist technique in the study and they sought human emotion and realism in art.


Realism in literature is considered to be an attempt to portray objects as they exist. This artistic movement seeks to depict reality in objective terms. Therefore, artists aligned to this movement of art do not attempt to give other connotations for their works; they do not align to secular or religious ideologies of human life, but they seek to portray the world as it is, in its natural beauty. Therefore, this approach emphasizes the aspects, such as reality and human belief. This movement tends to tell people that they should cherish the reality of their lives, including linguistic competencies and practices, beliefs, and conceptual schemas.  These things are known to the artist, and they can represent them in a manner that will be relevant to the people of a particular group. Realism stresses things that a person can decipher without professional interpretation; a person can use experiences of everyday life to conclude the work of art. This is because individuals can use their senses to derive conclusions about the work of art.  

Comparison of The Stonebreakers and The Gleaners

These two works of art have a lot of similarities, but they also contain some distinctive features. Realism art is the accurate, simple representation of the normal, discernible world without the imposition of ideas. The two works of art portray these aspects depicting people who are engaged in their daily activities. These people are poor since they are engaged in activities related to poor people. The stone breakers are engaged in the act of breaking stones, probably to earn a livelihood. The other painting, The Gleaners, also illustrates people in the fields, probably, preparing to plant. Their livelihood depends on agriculture and they are preparing their fields to plant some food.

Realism does not emphasize the romantic ideologies of abstraction, beauty, and imagination. The art, reflected in realism, seeks to portray figures and objects as they emerge in the real life. Gustave Courbet, courageously, renders human misery very honestly in The Stonebreakers. The men in these paintings are undergoing a lot of misery. Their livelihood is based on breaking the stones. They look weak, but they are determined to continue doing so to earn. In the same light, Jean Francois portrays the heartbreaking misery of countryside poverty in The Gleaners. The two realist artists, in their paintings, portray some implicit social observations by demonstrating the toil of daily life, experienced by the undistinguished and unsung members of the society.

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Both paintings are remarkable because of the idea of realism which is related to some aspects of naturalism. In fact, sometimes, realism and naturalism are used interchangeably.  However, the main difference between naturalistic and realistic aspects in art is that there is no simplistic contrast portrayed between the works. As it was already discussed, art realism displays things without adornment or embellishment; it displays objects as they exist. On the other hand, naturalism depicts things as they are likely to exist. Naturalism suggests a certain level of improvement over the actual appearance of objects. In the two paintings, the two artists depict naturalism in that the paintings portray the reality brought about by poverty. This shows that poverty is likely to engulf people once in their life. However, the idea of naturalism has connotations, which is not typical of realism which is known to be connotation-free.

In the two paintings, the gazes of the featured people do not meet the observer’s eyes. The artists did this intentionally, being driven by the desire to show that poor people are sidelined. In fact, middle-classed people criticized both paintings, since they are said not to portray a positive view of society. The people in the middle class wanted paintings that did not portray poverty. However, the two paintings were accepted by poor people, since they seemed to advocate for the empowerment of the poor; they were sources of inspiration for the poor.

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The contrast between the Two Paintings

The most obvious distinction between the two paintings is gender issue or that The Gleaners portray women, whereas the Stonebreakers portray men. However, the two paintings can be used to show that suffering is not excluded to any gender; men and women suffer in a society, characterized by poverty. In this light, people can understand Gustave’s painting The Stonebreakers; people can also understand Jean’s the Gleaners. The two paintings use aspects of gender to portray the universality of suffering. This can also be applied to show that people should work to end poverty.

The viewpoints of the two paintings differ in that the Gleaners is portrayed in a plain field while the setting of the Stonebreakers is in the mountains. The artists use different features, including emphasizing, to make the audience more attentive. For instance, the Stonebreakers are men, trying to get all they can from a desolate valley. The valley is stony, and these men can just break the stones in the valley to earn their livelihood. The artist takes a very small area (only where the men are breaking stones) to show the hard life of the people. These people are breaking stones, and Gustave highlights the stones.  This gives this picture a close-up view. In the same light, the women in Jean’s painting do not have much to get from the ground, but their determination is apparent. However, this painting is in contrast with Gustave’s painting in that the artist gives this painting a wide viewpoint. Therefore, the audience can view both the background and the front view of the painting. This helps the audience in that they conclude that the ground, all over, is bare and people can not reap much from it.

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