We are grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.
It was clear to many visitors that Jules Breton's Glaneuse (Musée des Beaux Arts, Arras), a picture which shows a single monumental barefoot female figure carrying a wheatsheaf, was one of the most important works at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, in 1878. Its effect was immediately felt in British painting in works like Alice Havers' Blanchisseuses (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), shown at the Royal Academy of 1880. In this, a group of French peasant women form a heroic frieze on a riverbank. They are, like the principal figure in the present work, modelled upon the Breton prototype. Here, in Clausen's watercolour, the harvester wears the characteristic black bodice and full skirt of the peasant woman of nothern Europe. Such figures, in the paintings of the period, invariably stand out against the sky and dominate the viewer. In a veiled way, they allude to classical or Biblical exemplars. Clausen is known to have been working in Breton's territory in 1879. The significance of the present work however, lies in the fact that its composition anticipates the more mature full-length fieldworker subjects of the 1880s, such as The Shepherdess, 1885 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), and the Stone Pickers, 1887 (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne).