The Dim-Post

February 4, 2016

The Stonebreakers

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:52 am


I dreamed about this painting last night, which I guess I learned about back when I studied art history in high school over twenty years ago. I haven’t thought about it since so I’m not sure why it made an appearance. The heat?

Someone in the dream asserted that this painting is ‘the foundation for all Marxist art.’ I have no idea if this is true or not. The dream also informed me that the painting was destroyed in the first World War which, according to Wikipedia was inaccurate – it was burned when the allies bombed Dresden in WWII. Towards the end of the dream someone claimed it still existed and was in Russia somewhere, which would be a good plot for a middle-brow literary novel.


  1. It would. Very Julian Barnes-ish.

    Comment by robhosking — February 4, 2016 @ 8:58 am

  2. Scott Hamilton wrote but couldn’t post, for technical reasons:

    Tried to put this comment on your blog but wasn’t allowed. damned cyborgs. Wonderful painting by Courbet! It’s regarded as a very significant moment in the history of art, because of the prominence and nobility that the painter, who was a lifelong radical and suffered considerably for his opinions after the defeat of the Paris Commune, gave to his working class subjects. They are not amusing or grotesque decorations for some landscape or cityscape, but solemn and noble figures, whose labours are as epic and as admirable as those of Hercules or Prometheus or some other long-suffering classical hero.

    I found echoes of The Stone Breakers in a 2013 exhibition by the Tongan New Zealand artist John Vea, who celebrates the hard physical labour that Pacific Islanders perform on New Zealand’s building sites and roadsides:

    Comment by danylmc — February 4, 2016 @ 9:41 am

  3. “Discover Stonecutter, one of over 3400 paint colours by Benjamin Moore.” Just the thing for the exterior of your new $920,000 home. Its really a charcoal but ‘stonecutter’ sounds so much more aspirational

    Comment by Ztev Konrad — February 4, 2016 @ 10:06 am

  4. “Someone in the dream asserted that this painting is ‘the foundation for all Marxist art.’ I have no idea if this is true or not.”

    This sounds like something that some commenters might have opinions on, that Danyl would be able to get passive aggressive about their expressing.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — February 4, 2016 @ 10:13 am

  5. It doesn’t clarify anything about Soviet military history, maybe next dream.

    Perhaps the reference to the dream/memory of Last Year at Marienbad rather than the heat!

    Comment by NeilM — February 4, 2016 @ 11:13 am

  6. The heat?

    You need a stone wall feature in the garden.

    Comment by unaha-closp — February 4, 2016 @ 11:41 am

  7. “Discover Stonecutter, one of over 3400 paint colours by Benjamin Moore

    At least it’s not ‘Half Tea’. Pretty much every second house being repainted today is coated in that miserable shade.

    Comment by Phil — February 4, 2016 @ 12:32 pm

  8. Jesus, can’t you just have more prosaic drams like the rest of us?

    Comment by Gregor W — February 4, 2016 @ 12:34 pm

  9. *dreams – saying that, the reason my dreams are so hum-drum is probably related to the preponderance of drams…

    Comment by Gregor W — February 4, 2016 @ 12:35 pm

  10. What would such an example of Marxist art portray if it was painted today? Apple’s Chinese factory workers working for a pittance while Iphone purchasers in the US feverishly gather around Bernie Sanders?

    Comment by Redbaiter — February 4, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

  11. It was part of the 6th form art history syllabus. I’d totally forgotten about this lovely work.

    Comment by Katie — February 6, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

  12. The radical idea with this kind of art is that someone as low class as a stone breaker could be a worthy subject of fine art. It’s political in that it takes modern art away from the classic subjects of landscape and portraiture etc and shows someone from the lowest rung of society (as a product art is a luxury item so a nice juxtaposition there too I guess, kudos art bro) as a valid subject outside of the acceptable portrayals of the poor. I guess it’s kinda like Banksy, but clever..

    Great painting.

    Comment by Michael Havell — February 10, 2016 @ 10:44 pm

  13. If you stepped off a plane in much of South Asia you’d still be able to find a similar scene, except that the workers are invariably women. There was a poignant cartoon in the Kathmandu Post a few years ago on World Women’s Day, with two women chipping stones, and one saying to the other “Is it women’s day again?”

    Comment by NCD — February 11, 2016 @ 7:35 am

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