Peasant life is synonymous with hard work. A peasant toils from the crack of dawn to late at night, tending his livestock, working the land or reaping his crops. Sixteenth-century scenes of peasants, for example by Brueghel, are famous; in them farcical figures with boorish manners play the leading role. In the 17th century, peasants figure primarily in ‘genre pieces’ (scenes from daily life), in which they appear as simple folk in everyday settings, either at work or drinking in a tavern. Peasants occur frequently in paintings and prints by Adriaen van Ostade, Rembrandt and Cornelis Pietersz. Bega, among others.
Peasant life was taken much more seriously in the 19th century by painters of the Barbizon School (including Charles Daubigny, Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet). Showing respect for their humble yet important labour, they depicted peasants at work or praying at the edge of a field.