After producing naturalistically modelled figures of athletic classical nudes in the manner initiated by Leighton in his Athlete Wrestling with a Python (1877, Tate Gallery N01754), Thornycroft turned in The Mower to a contemporary rural subject. This is apparently the first portrayal in British sculpture of a labourer in his working clothes. In its subject and treatment the work is linked to the rural naturalism of such contemporary painters as Clausen and La Thangue, but the most important sculptural prototype is Donatello's bronze David (c.1440, Bargello, Florence).
In the summer of 1882 Thornycroft made a pencil sketch of a mower he saw from a boat on the Thames at Marlow. In this a mower is shown standing on the river bank much as in the finished sculpture, but with the directions reversed, i.e. his right hand is on his hip and the scythe handle is supported by his left arm… (read more)