Captivating images of miners, steel workers, and more from famous sculptors including Constantin Meunier, Frederic Remington and Max Kalish, among others.
Adrien Etienne Gaudez was highly regarded for his figures of workers and was well-known throughout Europe in the latter half of the 19th century. Even when taken prisoner in Magdeburg, Germany in 1871, he continued his work during this time by creating a memorial for his fallen French comrades. Several French cities are home to his monuments and sculptures.
Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, was the original blacksmith of mythology, whose Greek counterpart was known as Hephaestus. Many traditional depictions of blacksmiths over the centuries in both painting and sculpture include allusions to—or were patterned after—the myths of Vulcan at his forge.
Gerhard Janensch created figures of blacksmiths, foundrymen, rolling mill workers, and steel workers. This figure happens to be that of a puddler. In traditional steelmaking, the puddler was responsible for creating the correct mix in the furnace to ensure that the iron or steel produced had the proper carbon content for workability.
Frederic Remington enrolled in 1878 at Yale University, where he took a drawing course taught by John Niemeyer (1839 –1932). In 1881 he left school and traveled west, where he worked as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly. In 1895 he sculpted his Bronco Buster among other depictions of the American West. After dozens of castings by Henry-Bonnard and the Roman Bronze Company, the Bronco Buster became the most popular American bronze of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Agricultural work was fundamental to civilization, allowing humankind to cease a nomadic existence and settle in to a life working the soil. Therefore, it is not surprising to find many figures depicting agricultural workers since ancient times. And much domesticated farm work began with harnessing the power of livestock. The Bronco Buster continues in that tradition as he works to tame a wild horse he has saddled, armed with rope and quirt.
Johann Friedrich Reusch was the son of a woodworker who learned early on how to create figures. As a young man, he studied at the Berlin Art Academy, where he had a sculpture studio. He was born in Siegen, Germany and later returned to create sculptures of the workers from his native surroundings. Among these were rolling mill workers and miners from northwest Germany.
Charles Octave Lévy was a student of Armand Toussaint (1806 – 1862) and became a well-known French sculptor in his own right. In 1873 he began exhibiting his works in the many galleries and salons around Paris and in 1889 he won third prize at the Paris Salon. He specialized in idealized treatments of workers and human triumph.
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.
On the original, a verse from Friedrich Schiller’s famous Song of the Bell was inscribed: From the heated brow – sweat must freely flow. Though the work may praise the Master, the blessing comes from higher. A fitting bit of prose as the Blacksmith pauses from his work to mop sweat from his brow while his hammer rests at his feet.
Inscribed FEIERABEND, or End of the Workday, this figure is at once a celebration of work, the human spirit, and a break from toil. The mower stands in front of a sheaf of wheat bundled and standing to dry. He holds his scythe while signaling to his fellow workers (or praising the heavens above) that their long workday is done.