Constantin-Emile Meunier is unquestionably the most important 19th century Belgian artist dealing with the subject of work. Both a painter and sculptor, he depicted the work and living conditions of Belgian miners and metalworkers as no one else had. It was in the late 1880s, while travelling in the Belgian industrial district of the Borinage, that his attention was drawn to these themes. From that point on, he devoted his energy and creativity to portraying his industrial impressions in paintings and sculptures.
Meunier wasn’t terribly interested in the technical documentation of industrial work. Instead, he was much more concerned with honoring the worker. In this painting, a young couple is taking a rest from their toil. The young man stands with a clay pipe in his left hand, while the young lady sits on a stool with legs crossed. An industrial landscape with smoking chimneys provides the backdrop for this work. Rather than appearing withered and worn, this couple exudes a strength and a dignity not altogether common in depictions of hard work. Through his treatment, a regal portrait of prideful workers is produced.