Historic Painting: “Harvest Rest” by George Cole, 1865.

harvest rest by george cole pd

This painting couldn’t be simpler, but it’s beautiful and I love it. It’s a family sitting in the shade in a field of ripe grain; one of the women is holding a baby. The man has put down his scythe, presumably after reaping and bundling the grain in the center, to enjoy this pastoral moment. This picture is called simply Harvest Rest and it was painted in 1865 by George Cole, an English landscape painter. Though the 1860s was a little early for impressionism, there is definitely an impressionist vibe to this work. The brush strokes are very precise and the subjects reminiscent of many impressionist themes later in the century. Yet I also see a continuity here with previous styles, especially other English landscapers like J.M.W. Turner. There’s just so much to see in a picture like this.

George Cole was a bit unusual among mid-19th century painters in that he was self-taught and didn’t come up through the “professional” ranks of European art academies, as did many other artists whose work I’ve featured in this series. Cole was painting from an early age, but he wasn’t painting pictures: his job was painting ships for the Royal Navy. Eventually he taught himself how to render artworks, and in 1838 his career really took off when one of his landscapes was exhibited at the Society of British Artists. He got noticed there and kept doing landscapes and pictures of animals for the rest of his career. He died in 1883, but his son, grandson and even great-grandson also became landscape painters, generally with success.

I believe this picture is in a private collection. According to Christie’s, the London auction house, it sold in 2011 for about $56,000.

This painting is in the public domain.
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