There is a lot going on in The Harvesters by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569). It is large, horizontal oil on wood, with two elements that particularly stand out: contrast and a sense of activity. Overall it seems like it’s a cloudy afternoon at the end of summer. There is no sun showing in the painting and the lighting is peculiar. Two colors dominate the wood, the green trees and the golden wheat. The contrast between them is so obviously. The colors in the painting are not so bright but rather muted due to the mysterious dilute light.
Is and an aura of activity can be felt from the colors for while a gold-like color dominates the wood, and the greens are saturated, there is dull quality as a result of the lighting-hence the contrast. In other words the colors are not bright but rather muted due to this mysterious diluted light. It seems like there is a fog hanging in the air but it also makes me feels unrealistic to happen in the afternoon. Pieter Brueghel used a lot of diagonals to the wheat piles and curve lines over the road, fields and people.
The lines in The Harvesters perfectly connect the elements of peace and activity. Now, let’s zoom out. As would be expected with perspective, the things that are closest to the viewers stand out. This is the case with The Harvesters. In this painting, the eye is drawn to a large tree, just to the right from the center and also to the peasants resting under it. There is woman leaning on the tree with her eyes staring to the front. The facial express right drops in my feeling that she surprised to see me.
I guess this is the centre of the perspective and Bruegel had used the piles of wheat on the ground as the line to create this three-dimensional view. There is one man in particular that stands out the most of all due to his size, placement near the tress. He is deep in sleep even has his mouth open. In contrast, everyone else under the tree seems like having a quick break, have a little food or drink before heading back to their labor. A little future, there are people working in the field with positions of bending, lifting and hoeing.
There are two mans picking up apples under the tree to the left of the painting. There is two women having wheat on their head and another woman right after them on the other side of the wheat filed. Then my vision is dragged in to the sense of green. By the pool, there are people washing. To the right of the pool, there are trees with their shadow to the right which proves the light came from the west that the sun is going down. A little more to the right, there are kids playing on the play ground.
There are much more details in The Harvesters: the windows in the house behind the tree and far beyond the wheat filed, the ships far away, and the well defined leaves. In contrast, the worker’s clothes have not much in detail even its much closer to the viewer. In summation, the Harvesters by Bruegel the elder has a repeating theme of contrast and an aura of activity. This is evident in the contrasting play of color, light diffusion and the paradoxical illustration of the worker.