The Gleaners By Banksy
‘The Gleaners’ is the work of a mysterious graffiti artist known as Banksy. No one knows the true identity of the man and there seems to be no hurry to find out who he really is. The actual title of the piece is ‘The Agency Workers’ but it is modified from the Millet painting from the 1800s hence, the reference back to the original painting. Learning about the artist, the history of the original painting, and the purpose helps to appreciate the wit and meaning of the painting.
The mysterious Banksy has a personal history. He was born in Bristol, England near the middle 1970s. His work began to appear in the 1990s and has grown to international popularity. Working throughout the night, he uses stencils to create fine work, very different from the graffiti normally greeting the morning. His work has political and social messages delivered with a touch of wit. There are some ideas of who Banksy is but none were proven. The information seems to be shared as a footnote to his art leading to the assumption that finding out his real identity is not as important as where he will show up next. He has graced the walls of communities around the world. He returned to his hometown in 2009 where ‘The Agency Workers’ was revealed in his exhibit “Banksy vs. Bristol.
The popular painting is a nod to the controversial work of Jean-Francois Millet. Millet painted the image of gleaners working in the fields in the middle 1800s. Gleaners were peasants who were allowed to pick up remnants from the wheat fields after the field owner’s workers finished their work. The scraps left over stood between the poor and starvation. The painting was created shortly after the French Revolution exposing the truth that there was still rampant poverty and the risk of the war did not reach its intent. Banksy brought the current state of poverty forward titling the piece “The Agency Workers” expressing the plight of the minimum wage employees. The wit lies in the artist removing one of the gleaners and placing her outside on the frame taking a smoke break.
Banksy has critiqued political and social concerns all over the world. He enjoys an international following of like-minded activists and art lovers. ‘The Gleaners’ is not the only famous work manipulated by Banksy to bring attention to social and political woes, but all of them attract our attention by the humorous way he catches the eye and tells the story, all while turning the traditional art world upside down.