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Definition: Millet, Jean François from Philip's Encyclopedia

French painter. He is best known for solemn, gritty scenes of rural life and labour such as The Angelus (1857-59). Millet's strengths as an artist show clearly in his drawings, which stress the dignity of his figures without any trivializing detail.

Summary Article: Millet, Jean François
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French artist. A leading member of the Barbizon School, he painted scenes of peasant life and landscapes. The Angelus (1859; Musée d'Orsay, Paris) and The Gleaners (1857; Louvre, Paris) were widely reproduced in his day.

Born in Normandy of a peasant family, he went to Paris to study in 1837. After a long struggle to earn a living by painting shepherdesses and nude bathers in the 18th-century style galant, he found his true vein in The Winnower of 1848. He settled at the village of Barbizon 1849, with his second wife and growing family, and there, still in poverty, devoted himself exclusively to the paintings of peasant life for which he is famous, such as The Reapers 1854, The Gleaners 1857, and The Angelus 1859.

Typically, his paintings and drawings convey the sombre melancholy of a peasant existence, a melancholy often emphasized by a twilight atmosphere. Though later dismissed as sentimental, such works were among the first to try to convey the dignity of rural life.

He first studied art at Cherbourg, and obtained a municipal grant to study in Paris. He entered the studio of Delaroche, fellow pupils being Diaz and Rousseau, his later friends at Barbizon, and first exhibited at the Salon 1840.

In the sombre melancholy of his pictures he may be called a realist, though the ethical or emotional element sometimes seems too prominent – the writer Baudelaire complained that Millet was determined at all costs to add something to the inherent poetry of his subjects. Millet's oil paintings are sometimes lifeless and muddled in texture, but in pastels, drawings, and etchings his abilities are fully displayed.

He is distinct from his colleagues of the Barbizon School in the equal importance he attached to figure and landscape: his ability to conveyed an essential harmony between them is one of his achievements.


Millet, Jean François The Wood Sawyers

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