Of peasant origins himself, Jules Bastien-Lepage specialized in directly observed yet sympathetic portrayals of rural laborers and the urban poor in the 1870s and early 1880s. His individual portraits bring the viewer into direct confrontation with the subject. In this work, we look down toward the sitter, seeing her immersed in the landscape. This viewpoint may be interpreted as symbolic of her life and social status or as the literal transcription of how the taller artist actually saw her.
Bastien-Lepage painted out of doors like his Impressionist contemporaries, but his empathy with his subjects contrasts with the deliberate detachment of realist and Impressionist artists. The artist's approach appealed greatly to English and American artists and critics, however, which may explain why the museum, despite its intent to acquire works by living American painters, purchased this French work in 1898, fourteen years after the artist's death.