The composition in front of us features four farm workers busily 'taking in the rye'. The setting would have been the artist's native region and it is dated at 1912, at which point the artist would have been in his mid thirties. The traditional lives of these figures is contrasted with the contemporary style used by the artist, with his bands of bright colour being particularly memorable. The painting is now to be found at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, where several related artists are also featured, such as Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Marc Chagall. They also own Woodcutter (1912–13) by Kazimir Malevich.
Malevich was by no means the only famous artist to have concentrated on the lives of the poor, even though they would not have been in a position to offer large payments for any portraits. It was clearly more about artistic expression and using them as a source of inspiration. Other artists went down the route of producing portraits of the rich and famous in order to supplement their incomes and also build up a strong network of powerful connections. One cannot summarise all famous artists just with one caricature - for some would work exclusively for their creative freedom, whilst others would use their popularity for other purposes, whilst many would also do a little bit of both.
Potato Eaters by Vincent van Gogh was his very first masterpiece and also has become perhaps the most famous depiction of the poor within European art. The artist himself was from a poor background and had a considerable struggle throughout most of his life. His dark colour scheme perfectly captured the challenging lives experienced by these local Dutch workers. In comparison, Pieter Bruegel has many centuries earlier displayed peasant life in a much more upbeat manner, covering festivals and other joyous occasions. See Peasant Wedding and Peasant Dance for just two examples of this, from the many available.