Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer
Francis Wheatley (England, 1747–1801)
Harvest Dinner, 1792
Oil on canvas
26 x 20 ¼ in.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000
In Harvest Dinner, a group of peasants pause from the grain harvest to enjoy a meal under the shade of an arbor. The painting conveys a harmonious existence in which the bounty of the farmlands produces the food and liquor now enjoyed by the men, and the mob caps worn by the women in the foreground, when taken together with their rolled sleeves, suggests the informality of the fields. Rural scenes became increasingly popular in the Georgian society near the turn of the nineteenth century, as the English sought respite from the rigors of industrial and urban life. The nobility desired the pleasures of a country existence, as popularized in the novels of Jane Austen and others, and artists such as Francis Wheatley produced somewhat idyllic scenes of rural labor for the gentry. Like Austen, however, there is little suggestion in Harvest Dinner of the poverty and undesirable living conditions faced by the rural lower classes.
Wheatley exhibited Harvest Dinner at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1792, the principal academy in England, where the painter had been among the first class in 1769.
Clara Weitzenhoffer began her collection with this painting, partly because she had begun to acquire eighteenth-century English furniture for her home in Oklahoma City’s Nichols Hills neighborhood.