Constantin Meunier is known for his figures of industrial workers, such as this ironworker leaning on tongs for handling red-hot metal. Like Auguste Rodin, Meunier is considered an Impressionist sculptor. Light and shade play across the roughly modeled surfaces of his figures, producing realistic effects of texture and depth.
A typical 19th-century sculptor, Meunier worked out his ideas in plasters like this one. He intended these handmade plasters for public exhibition and then for reproduction in bronze or marble. This version of The Hammerer still bears the coats of shellac that protected its surface during the mold-making process, a task that would have been carried out by skilled artisans.