The washerwoman, Daumier

The washerwoman, Daumier
The washerwoman, Daumier

Most of the time, art is a true reflection of the society in which it is created, throughout the history of art many monarchs or nobles have used artistic expressions to demonstrate their power and worth, however, and although on a much more discreet level art has also served to demonstrate or denounce the miserable situation to which the people are subjected. Already in the Baroque era, a painting began to appear in some countries, such as Spain, where the political and economic situation became untenable, which, although it flattered nobles and kings, also took care to reflect the lifestyle of the layers social disadvantaged.


From this germ began to take shape in Europe a painting that would culminate in the Realist style forged in France throughout the nineteenth century and whose first representative was the Courbet. Later, many other painters would join this movement that tried to reflect the political and social instability of the last years of what was known as the Old Regime. In this context, some artists emerged who manifested in their works the precarious situations in which workers or peasants found themselves; one of them was Daumier.

Honoré Daumier (1808 – 1879) was a French painter, illustrator and engraver. Although most of his artistic production was developed in the newspapers where he works as an illustratormaking a fierce criticism of the political and social situation of the time, Daumier also made many canvases, especially from the fifties.

Around the year 1963 the artist made the painting of La laundress, a small oil on canvas in a vertical format and barely fifty centimeters high and thirty-four centimeters wide that is currently exhibited in the Museum of Orsay in Paris. Actually, the artist painted three versions with this same washerwoman theme of which this is the last canvas. The first of these versions dates from the late fifties when, influenced by Millet's oil paintings, Daumier also focused his painting on the peasant world. The second of the canvases was painted in the early 1960s and is just a revision of the first.

In all these paintings Daumier presents theharsh conditions of the working classA laundress who has to face long hours of work in addition to taking care of his family. Holding her hand, a little boy tries to climb the stairs on the banks of the Seine. The artist, however, does not present us with a weak woman but rather a robust and strong one, the new heroine of the time who tirelessly fights to continue surviving. The artist uses the color stains to enhance the lighting effect of chiaroscuro with which he gives the canvas roundness. The brushstrokes are loose and heavily loaded with paint, and the earthy range predominates in the colors.

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