woman and child at the door of a farmhouse; woman with child on her back comes up behind them; tools scattered on the lawn, chicken pecks at the ground
(Femme a la porte d'une ferme), Though championed in his lifetime by Champfleury, Philippe Burty, and the Goncourt brothers, Hervier had already fallen into eclipse by the 1890s when the critic Roger Marx tried, with little success, to restore him to modernist favor. Hervier's curiosity, he wrote, "led him to discover, then to save from oblivion monuments of the past menaced by civilization's progress, old districts with ramshackle and crooked shacks. Hervier animated and dated these representations . . . by means of an entirely modern staging." Hervier's work grew out of the romantic picturesque of the 1830s but his interest in the daily life of villages and poor suburbs increasingly associated him with midcentury naturalism. His paintings are mostly landscapes but his prints feature fisherfolk, villagers, peasants, markets, and fairs. By far the largest number represent women, perpetuating the age-old male association of women with the "natural life." Both etchings and prints are characterized by a witty sketchiness that sometimes borders on caricature. This makes peasants into types, emphasizing their "otherness" compared to the individualism attributed to the urban bourgeoisie, and revealing Hervier's actual distance from his female subjects. This distance did not exclude sympathy with their laborious lives, marginalized like his own, and he seldom showed them as coquettishly or "beautifully" posed, as did so many of his contemporaries.
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