Women Harvesting was painted by Plastov in the village Prislonikha in the Simbirsk province where he lived most of his life. The painting is a celebration of country life and the hard work of the peasant people in the fields. The girl on the left balances a scythe on her shoulder whilst the other two women cut the harvest by hand.The size of the canvas and the quick brushstrokes, in many cases painted wet in wet paint, indicate that this is a working sketch. It was probably painted en plein air and there are several
photographs of him sitting in the fields around Prislonikha whilst painting the rural life of Russia.
Plastov was both a superb observer of life as well as a talented colourist. The saturated blue of the woman's skirt, together with the quick flashes of green in the foreground create a powerful contrast with the yellow tones of the harvest. Plastov has deliberately reduced the sky to a narrow band of blue to create a more intense feeling of enclosure and perhaps even claustrophobia as these women uncomplainingly continue with their work under the sun.
Oil on canvas
45cm x 70cm
Plastov was born in Prislonika and was one of the most important Russian Socialist Realist painters. He was twice awarded the Order of Lenin Prize as well as the Stalin Prize. He had a very naturalistic style and often painted from nature.
From 1912-1914 Plastov studied at the Stroganov College in Moscow. Plastov spent the majority of his time in his native village of Prislonikha, where he lived and worked and almost all his creative work is associated with this village. The models for the main characters in Plastov's paintings were always the inhabitants of Prislonikha and he intended his work to be a statement of the renewal of life, with its humble beauty and truth.
Plastov remained true to the peasant theme where "humanity was shown with all its intoxication in extreme tension and truth". He painted, in particular in the 1940s, with broad strokes and saturated colours which are reminiscent of the Impressionists.
The artist denounced the contrived narrative compositions characteristic in Soviet Realist paintings of the 1930-1950s. Conversely, Soviet art critics decried Plastov's work as an "eventless" genre. Fundamentally, however, Plastov intended his work to stand as a statement of the renewal of life, with its all its humble beauty and truth.