Birth Year : 1814|
Death Year : 1875
Country : France
Jean Francois Millet was born on a farm near Cherbourg and never forgot that he had spent his boyhood working in his father's fields. He showed an early talent for drawing and was sent to study with a painter in Cherbourg. He later went to Paris after receiving a municipal grant that enabled him to study at the Beaux-Arts under Paul Delaroche. The inflexible training he received was too much for his temperament and he gave up formal study to work along in the Louvre, where he admired the works of Mantegna, da Vinci, Giorgione, and Poussin. For some years, Millet supported himself by painting portraits, pastoral subjects, and decorative panels. He first had a painting accepted at the Salon in 1844, and became a member of the French Academy in 1847. In the following year, however, he discovered that his real vocation as an artist lay in painting the land that he could never abandon. Millet thus began to take his subjects from the rustic life of peasants and farm laborers. The first of a long series of rural paintings, The Winnower (1848), brought him his first success and the accusation of the critics of socialism. Completely undeterred from his purpose, Millet retired to Barbizon the following year and remained for twenty-two years, painting landscapes and the rural scenes reminiscent of his childhood by which he is best known. These scenes are executed in a distinctively personal and realistic manner, and in a sober palette. The human forms are painted in a sculptural composition that is psychologically truthful, low-keyed, almost melancholy intone, and deeply emotional in feeling. During the Franco-Prussian War, Millet moved back to Cherbourg, where he painted some seascapes, and in the final years of life was commissioned by the French government to do a set of decorative panels of The Four Seasons for the Pantheon. He completed only the preliminary sketches before his death in 1875. Millet's realistic approach to peasant subjects had an important influence upon later nineteenth-century artists and very particularly upon van Gogh.
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