A. Arkhipov carried out his career in the field of genre painting, drawing various episodes from the life of peasants. The Laundresses canvas, which reveals the theme of hard, debilitating labor, Arkhipov began in the late 1890s and finished in 1901. During this time, two versions of the painting were created. The work “Laundresses” is one of the most famous and at the same time one of the most important in the artist’s work.
The painting was conceived in Moscow and inspired by visits to laundries located not far from the Smolensk market. However, another place was chosen for posing - a corner in Arkhipov's workshop, where the lighting corresponded to the basement of the laundry room.
The first version of the canvas covers a larger number of figures, the second is more concise. In the first version, a group of laundresses forms a compositional circle and looks like a single whole. The artist’s skill is conveyed by their exhaustion caused by exorbitant labor, and the effect of movement is achieved through the use of light reflexes playing on the wet surfaces of objects and pale faces of women. In the second version of the picture, the theme of hard work is revealed through the image of the old washerwoman sitting near the trough with linen and hunched over from fatigue.
The color of the picture is based on shades of gray, purple and lilac colors. Wide strokes convey the luster of the wet floor, the air saturated with moisture, swirling steam around the laundries and the pale lighting from a tiny window, the edge of which is visible in the picture.
The Laundresses painting primarily shows a social motive: extreme fatigue from hard work and awareness of the hopelessness of one’s situation, which causes women to feel sadness, a sense of hopelessness and apathy. In addition to the social connotation, a new artistic style is realized in the picture: generalization of form, almost complete rejection of detail in the image, work with wide strokes and the desire for free writing.
Painting by Raphael Madonna and Child