Collections Crossover: Agriculture
Collections Crossover: Agriculture

With food prices very much in the news at the moment, highlighting the wide range of images we have on the subject of agriculture seems apt. The images in these selections have been drawn from 45 different collections represented by Mary Evans, not counting our own archive, and include contributions from Africa Media Online, the Ashmolean Museum, Francis Frith, Historic England, Interfoto, the National Archives, Town & Country Planning, and the Wentworth Collection among many others.

The science and practice of farming for growing crops and rearing animals to provide food and other products is so fundamental to human society that art has been created on this theme since ancient times. This first selection encompasses ancient and medieval agriculture up to the end of the 1600s and features images on mosaics, pottery, stained glass, tapestry, illuminated manuscripts and architectural features. It was a universal motif.

The next set focuses on the 18th and 19th centuries, when, in many countries, new machines were starting to radically change the nature of farming. Amongst the steam threshers, rick-making machines and sheep-dipping systems, however, it's notable that there are still endless images illustrating small-scale local practices such as the stilt-walking French shepherds keeping an eye on their flocks from on high.

Finally, in many sectors, agriculture in the 20th century firmly embraced industrial-scale production and mechanisation, although due to poverty or tradition, hand tools were still a valued necessity. An aerial view of Chicago cattle pens in the 1950s or rice terraces in the Philippines contrast with photos of people working smallholdings in much the same way they had done since medieval times.

We've got so much more on this subject, so if you are working on a relevant project, do contact us. We'd be happy to help. Get in touch by email at or by phone on 020 8318 0034.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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