Peasant Woman Nursing a Baby – 1873 Terracotta
Aimé-Jules Dalou - V&A Museum
This is an example of how pervasive and influential the political leanings of an artist can really be. Aimé-Jules Dalou was the son of a simple glove maker. He initially started studying drawing, but eventually abandoned it in favor of sculpture, entering the École des Beaux-Arts in 1854. In his early adulthood, he became a leftwing political activist and participated in the Paris Commune of 1871, leading to his exile in London.
This piece is deeply revealing of the artists political views. While other artists depicted Greek Gods, biblical passages or wealthy individuals, Aimé-Jules Dalou chose a simple peasant mother and her child as the subjects for this sculpture. Even the choice of material is revealing. He eschews marble in favor of terracotta. While nursing, the woman looks down at her child with a loving facial expression. The simplicity of her garment leaves no doubt as to her humble origins. This sculpture captures a primal, domestic display of maternal affection to which anyone who possesses the least amount of sensibility can relate.