Since my gleaning experience I have been looking at the history of gleaning and finding out some interesting stuff. A new friend led me to the Wikepedia post about gleaning and I discovered that, back in biblical times, the law stated that farmers had to leave the corners of the fields unharvested so that the poor could reap. I am interested to learn more. I am sure there must be a lengthy tome somewhere! I need to do some reading and research.
My image of gleaning had been Millet's painting of "The Gleaners". My lovely friend Caroline shared Agnes Varde's film Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse, which looks at the practice of contemporary gleaning in France. It shows us modern gleaners who have salvaged waste from fields and also from the streets, markets and rubbish bins. She also interviews artists who have used things that other people have thrown away and made work with.
Click on this link. I promise you it will be an hour well spent.
Here are some lovely paintings of woman gleaners. This one is called "Calling in the Gleaners" by Jules Breton. Agnes Varda mentions this in the film and cites that this was considered a more acceptable version of gleaning to the art establishment than Millet's The Gleaners, which only served as an unwelcome reminder that the poor existed. The woman looks healthy and not poor and sad. S Maybe this is a strong woman who is overcoming poverty with strength and dignity. Not willing to be beaten down.
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
The best bit of the film so far is Agnes Varda finding a painting in a junk shop of Gleaners. It's a lovely coincidence.
The painting on the left is "Gleaners Returning" by G F Day (1860) and the wonderful sketch on the right is, of course, Van Gogh.