Considering that Millet unveiled Man with a Hoe just around the same period during which French laborers and peasants toiled hard on agricultural farms, terming it as controversial among art lovers would be a mild understatement. In the early 19th century, incorporating Naturalist techniques into painting was usually unheard of. It took the efforts of Millet, especially with his piece; Man with a Hoe, and fellow artists, including Gustave Courbet who signed to his contemporary style of Realism, to finally bring to recognition honor and dignity embedded in the silent connection of art and life.
Being a top artist in France at the time, Millet was accorded both national and international recognition, as a developer of the unique Realistic style in art. Gauging from the depiction he evoked in Man with a Hoe, admirers and critics often attributed Millet's sense of style to a liking of artworks done by renowned painters, dating back to the 16th century, including Eugene Delacroix and Pieter Bruegel. In Man with the Hoe, the laborer is in the middle of preparation of land to farm, presumably, for the season to come. This was a common activity that depended on seasonal changes back then in France. Notably, the man is nearing the end of all strength. With manly effort depleted in him, he’s lucky to have a hoe. It's the only accessory around that he can lean on for support.
The sun's burning nigh. All he can do about this is keep his sleeves rolled down, to minimize the scorch that's already wearing him out. Man with a Hoe has specifically focused on the man and the ground around him. The field he’s plowing is tough. It’s composed of hard soil and tangled grass. Far behind him, gathered mulch is burning away slowly. Man with a Hoe is Millet's way of honoring hardworking laborers. He’s done this by clearly portraying how hard the peasant worked on farms. After Man with a Hoe, various artists took up Millet’s style. It's been a trendsetter and inspiration for Edouard Manet, Degas, Gustave Caillebotte and many others. Articulate pieces done by Millet, in addition to The Man with the Hoe are The Winnower and The Angelus.