Collection Online
oil on canvas
180.7 × 196.0 cm
inscribed in yellow paint l.l.: 1878 DAMVILLERS / J. BASTIEN - LEPAGE
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1928
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
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[1]; by descent to his wife, Mary (later Mrs Coutts Michie), until 1927[2]; from whom purchased, through David Croal Thompson (dealer) of Barbizon House, on the advice of Frank Rinder, for the Felton Bequest, 1927.

[1] Bruce Pennay, 'McCulloch, George (1848–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessible via link.

[2] 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,

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.


Jules Bastien-Lepage’s October, 1878, appears in the back of an undated (c.1900) photograph of the collection of George McCulloch, featuring the dealer David Croal Thomson. The painting is framed in a classical revival scotia frame, which might be seen to be the original presentation of the painting. The artist died in 1884, the picture was sold in 1885 and acquired by McCulloch in 1897. We should note, however, the apparent repetition of the frame on other paintings in the photograph. Thomson eventually negotiated the sale of the painting to the NGV in 1927.

By the late 20th century the painting was on display in only the slip section of this frame.
The remains of the outer frame sections, three full sides and two parts of a fourth side, were found in storage.
No record has come to light of the reason why the outer frame was removed and the work left on display in the slip. It is possible that this approach was connected with the program of modernisation that swept through presentation of the collection from the late 1930’s, removing decorative and/or broad frames and reducing the edges to simpler forms and thinner profiles. In some instances, like this one, the frame sections were kept, able to be later re-instated.
The frame pieces were re-assembled and the missing piece replaced in the fourth side in 1993.

The painting was cleaned in 2003.

Unknown - 19th century

Wood, composition, gold leaf


partially restored in 1993