- oil on canvas
- 180.7 × 196.0 cm
- Accession Number
- International Painting
- Credit Line
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1928
- Gallery location
- 19th Century European Paintings Gallery
Level 2, NGV International
Collection of the artist until his death, 1884; included in Jules Bastien-Lepage estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 11-12 May 1885, no. 13; from where purchased by Emile Bastien-Lepage (1854–1938), brother of the artist, 1885; his collection, until 1897; by whom sold to Arthur Tooth & Sons (dealer), London, 1897; collection of George McCulloch (1848–1907), London, until 1907; by descent to his wife, Mary (later Mrs Coutts Michie), until 1927; from whom purchased, through David Croal Thompson (dealer) of Barbizon House, on the advice of Frank Rinder, for the Felton Bequest, 1927.
 Bruce Pennay, 'McCulloch, George (1848–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcculloch-george-4074/text6501, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessible via link.
 McCulloch bequeathed an estate valued at £436,000. The bulk of the his art collection was subsequently auctioned, realising a total of £136,859. In 1909, Mary married the Scottish artist James Coutts Michie (1859–1919). See Barbara Lemon, 'Mary Coutts Michie' in The Australian Women’s Register, The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne, http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE4013b.htm
October, exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1879, is one of a pair of harvest scenes that marked a new direction in Jules Bastien-Lepage’s career as a painter. The earlier of the two works, The haymakers (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), exhibited at the Salon in 1878, shows two weary haymakers resting in the summer heat; by contrast, October is an account of the bleak autumnal potato harvest, set in a bare, featureless landscape. October was painted at the artist’s native village of Damvillers, in the Meuse Valley to the northeast of Paris. Here, inspired by the example of Millet and Courbet, Bastien-Lepage had planned to paint rural life as he knew it, celebrating its hardships as well as the inherent dignity of the peasants themselves. He particularly despised those city painters whose sentimental views of rustic life confirmed their ignorance of it, but whose works continued to fill the annual Salons.
The choice of large canvases for his two harvest scenes not only indicates Bastien-Lepage’s ambitious artistic program, but also bespeaks his confidence in his own technical virtuosity. It was perhaps this latter element that was most noticed by Salon audiences. The public was pleased by the artist’s ability to combine the high ‘finish’ expected of a conventional academic picture with the looser brushwork associated with the Impressionists.