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Overview

Louis Le Nain lived in a region to the north of Paris known for its open fields that produced cereals and grain. Although he settled in Paris with his two brothers, who were also painters, he produced a series of rural images that recall the landscape of his youth.

In the Landscape with Peasants, an old woman regards three children: a little girl dressed in white collar and cap, a small boy who plays the pipe, and a boy dressed in a cloak and hat who plays a hurdy-gurdy. In the middle ground several shepherds guard their sheep while the background is dominated by a townscape and rolling hills. The clear spacing of the figures and the interlocked planes of space linking land and sky reveal how precisely Le Nain organized his composition.

Their fitted clothes and shoes suggest that the children were not peasants but perhaps members of an emerging class of farmers acquiring land in the early decades of the century. Le Nain's emphasis on the land in this composition implies that the rich soil holds potential profits for these new landowners. The Le Nains' rural subjects were very popular, suggesting their patrons appreciated the agricultural messages encoded in the structure of the paintings.

Provenance

Thomas Gainsborough [1727-1788], London; (his estate sale by private contract, Schomberg House, London, 30 March 1789 and days following, no. 10, as Travelling Musicians). George Hibbert [1757-1837], London; (joint sale with Sir Simon H. Clarke, Christie's, London, 14 May 1802, no. 33, bought in); George Hibbert [1757-1837], London; (his sale, Christie's, London, 13 June 1829, no. 36); Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin [d. 1847]; sold December 1829 to Joseph Neeld [d. 1856], Grittleton House, near Chippenham, Wiltshire; by inheritance to his brother, Sir John Neeld, 1st bt. [1805-1891], Grittleton House; by inheritance to his son, Sir Algernon William Neeld, 2nd bt. [1846-1900], Grittleton House; by inheritance to his brother, Sir Audley Dallas Neeld, 3rd bt. [1849-1941], Grittleton House; by inheritance to Joseph Neeld's descendant through an illegitimate daughter, Lionel William [Inigo-Jones] Neeld [d. 1956], Grittleton House; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 9 June 1944, no. 18); purchased by Koetser or Rocker.[1] (Wildenstein & Co., Paris, New York, and London); sold December 1944 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[2] gift 1946 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1910
Pictures by The Brothers Le Nain, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1910, no. 10, repro.
1932
Exhibition of French Art 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1932, no. 109.
1934
Le Nain, peintures, dessins, Petit Palais, Paris, 1934, no. 27 as Paysage avec Figures.
1946
Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 783.
1978
Les frères Le Nain, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1978-1979, no. 36, repro.
1982
France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-Century French Paintings in American Collections, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago, 1982, no. 47, repro., as Peasants in a Landscape.
1996
Obras Maestras de la National Gallery of Art de Washington, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City, 1996-1997, unnumbered catalogue, 70-71, color repro.
Bibliography
1945
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 153, repro.
1946
Frankfurter, Alfred M. Supplement to the Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1946: 58, repro.
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 110, color repro.
1959
Cooke, Hereward Lester. French Paintings of the 16th-18th Centuries in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Four in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 18, color repro.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 344, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 206, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 74.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:292, color repro.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 65, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 192, repro.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 266-267, fig. 246.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 318, no. 421, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 225, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 162, repro.
1993
Rosenberg, Pierre. Tout l'oeuvre peint des Le Nain. Paris, 1993, 80-81, no. 34, pl. XXI, as Paysage avec vieille femme, joueur de flageolet et vielleur.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 175, no. 137, color repro.
2005
The Arts of France from François Ier to Napoléon Ier. A Centennial Celebration of Wildenstein's Presence in New York. Exh. cat. Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 2005: 52, fig. 13, 71 (not in the exhibition).
2009
Conisbee, Philip, et al. French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2009: no. 70, 318-322, color repro.