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Millet

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MILLET, Jean Francois, zhOn me-la, French painter, the founder of the Bar bizon school of painting: b. Gruchy, near Cher bourg, 4 Oct. 1814; d. Barbizon, 20 Jan. 1875. The son of a Norman peasant, he owed much in his childhood to a woman of simple piety and strong individuality, and to her brother, and learned enough Latin to delight in the Vulgate and Virgil. He was educated in the Academy of Design at Cherbourg, and received a bursary from that city which enabled him, in 1837, to proceed to Paris, where he entered the studio of Delaroche. This does not seem to have been a congenial home for his early art life, yet at first he struggled to comply with his surroundings and painted genres in the style of Watteau (q.v.) and Boucher (see BOUCHER, FRANCOIS) , as well as Biblical and mythological incidents, with landscape backgrounds, and sign boards. It was in 1848 that he really found himself, and hit upon the line of art in which he could give utterance to the sincere feelings of his heart. This turning point in his career was marked by the appearance of his genre painting, taken from country life, 'The Win nower.' Henceforth his days were to be spent far from the glitter of Paris, the competition and jealousies of the studios; settling in Bar bizon, on the edge of the forest of Fontaine bleau, he devoted himself to the study and portrayal of peasant life. The hardship, toil and privation of the farm laborers he sym pathized with acutely, and some have even ac cused him of being a social revolutionist, but he professed no views of this tendency, though his interpretation of the peasant's lot may be too gloomy and pessimistic, and his ironical bitter ness of spirit such that it infected his canvas and clouded the beauty of external nature as depicted there. He himself was almost all his life battling with that poverty whose privations had early robbed him of his young wife. There is a profound pathos in his conception of the rural isolation and hardship of soil slavery, with all its stolid but unrequited patience, and this he has portrayed with a certain broad and impressionistic treatment which is both sincere and original. At first, his works were passed by or misunderstood, but gradually they were recognized at their true value, and he was hailed as the greatest painter of modern France. Since his death his pictures have been sold at enormous prices and looked upon the most precious pieces in private or public col lections.

Millet's greatest picture, the 'Angelus' (1859), was sold by him for 1,800 francs and later brought at auction 800,000 francs. Millet himself sold his picture 'The Woman with the Lamp' for $2,800 in 1872. Shortly after it was sold for $4,600 and again for $7,000. In 1882 it fetched $18,000. The most important of his other works are 'The Sower' (1850);

belong to his early period when he was tor tured with sickness and harassed by debt. Af ter the appearance of the 'Angelus' his repu tation was established, but chronic poverty still pursued him. In 1860 he produced his won derful picture, the 'Sheep-Shearing > in which he seems to express as much pity for the dumb beast as for the patience of the human toiler who is bent over it. In 1862 appeared the 'Potato Planters' ; in 1863 'The Wool Carder,' and 'The Man with the Hoe.' In 1867 he was awarded at the Paris Exposition a medal of the first class and the ribbon of the Legion of Honor in 1868. He took refuge in Cher bourg during the Franco-Prussian War, but returned to Barbizon in 1871, where he con tinued in broken health, though still working with untiring brush, until the end came.

Among the paintings of this artist now in the United States are The Sower' ; 'The Water Carrier' (Vanderbilt collection); 'A Peasant Grafting a Tree' (Rockefeller collection) ; 'The Turkey Tender' (C. A. Dana collection, New York) ; 'The Buckwheat Threshers' and the

The drawings, etchings and pastels of Millet are eagerly sought after and always bring a high price at auction or private sale. The most familiar is his own portrait, a sketch often re produced. His 'Woman Feeding Chickens' • 'Flock of Sheep with Shepherd); the 'New born Lamb' ; 'Laundresses on the Shore) are best known. Among his pastels are 'The Vine Dresser) and 'Butter Making.) All his works show masterly drawing, and the landscapes which appear in many of them ate put in with an ease and atmosphere worthy of the best periods of French art. His coloring may be sombre, and he disregards the power of the human countenance as giving expression to the sentiment of his conception. But the life of each picture is to be found in the inimitable pose of the figures, and the suggestiveness of the background. The hands, shoulders and feet of these figures, as they move in harmony with forms cumbrous, almost grotesque, are made to suggest the dull torture in which stolid and half-bestial creatures are held under the yoke of toil and poverty. The light reflected upon these figures from religious sentiment or natu ral affection only serves to intensify the pro found melancholy by which the story of their lives is clouded.

Ady, J. C., 'Jean Francois Millet: His Life and Letters' (New York 1902); Marcel, H., 'Jean Francois Millet: biographic critique) (Paris 1903) • Sensier, vie et rceuvres de Jean Francois Millet> (Paris 1881) ; and its abridged English translation (Boston 1896) ; Thomson, D. C., 'The Barbizon School) (London 1890) ; Turner, Percy M., 'Millet) (in the 'Masterpieces of Color' series, London 1909) ; Yriarte, C. E., 'Jean Francois Millet) (Paris 1885).