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Peasant Spreading Manure (Paysan répandant du fumier) (work of art)

Artwork Info

1854 to 1855
32 x 44 inches (81.3 x 111.8 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

Object Number
European French
European to 1910

Key Ideas

  • Jean-François Millet specialized in painting people who looked like him: French people living in poverty. He depicted them working in rural jobs in the natural beauty of the countryside.
  • The artist depicted working conditions for French peasants realistically.
  • Millet was part of an art movement known as the Barbizon school of painters. They recognized landscapes as being important subjects on their own. 




Learn More

Jean-François Millet was the son of farmers. His paintings depicted the struggle and hard labor of French peasants who worked outdoors in rural areas. By the late 1870s, Millet and like-minded artists became known as the Barbizon school. This group of artists focused on painting landscapes. They eventually gained acceptance by early impressionist painters like Manet, who admired the naturalism of their landscapes. Before the Barbizon school was accepted by the art world, the French Academy did not recognize landscapes as “legitimate” subjects on their own. According to the Academy, landscapes had to include references to mythology or poetry in order to be taken seriously. 

Millet intended to complete this painting in time for the Paris World’s Fair of 1855, but he was unable to do so. His friend and fellow painter Théodore Rousseau bought the unfinished painting from him.

tags: cycle, environment, work, farm

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers: 


Resources for Students:


  • An oil painting of a peasant farmer working in a field in rural France. Another laborer and cattle are visible in the background.

    Peasant Spreading Manure (Paysan répandant du fumier)