Monday, September 20, 2021

Harvesting Coal

In 1894, Russian artist Nikolay Kasatkin painted this picture of poor women and children gathering chunks of coal in a worked-out coal mine.

According to the Virtual Russian Museum, the painting describes: "one of the gloomy paradoxes of the industrial revolution in Russia. While their fathers and husbands are mining for anthracite underground, the women and children attempt to make ends meet by scouring the site of an old mine for scraps of coal. The expressiveness of the depicted scene — resolved as an everyday, repetitive action — is increased by the slag heaps, gaping potholes and lifeless landscape."


Laura G. Young said...

Sobering imagery from a time of massive transition. I wonder -- are there any artists among the Academic-style resurgence that are holding up a mirror to today's society as the Peredvizhniki ("Wanderers") and other movements once did? Or is that now the purview of photojournalists?

Here's a few more famous works by Krasatkin:

(And here's the site in English via Google Translate, which is slowly getting better:

James Gurney said...

Laura, thanks for those links. That gallery had such heartbreaking images, especially the one of the orphans. Cheers, J and J

Jo Castillo said...

My dad and father-in-law both did this in the 40s in New Mexico. Times were rough.

Laura G. Young said...

The orphan painting is especially wrenching, I agree. I believe that piece was considered to be influenced by Vasiliy Perov's "Seeing the Dead" (link: I think you've posted about one of Perov's paintings before, "Easter Procession". Very hard-hitting stuff.

Also -- The webpage I linked to earlier seems to have omitted the painting that cemented Krasatkin's reputation. It's another in the series regarding the conditions in the Donetsk mining region, a piece entitled, "Miners: Shift Change". Link:

(Sorry for geeking out; many moons ago my senior thesis centered on the Peredvizhnik artists and their patrons.)

Thanks again for sharing. I always learn something new. :)

Virtually social said...

Very nice