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MILLET


311


MILLET


Correggian feeling for grace that was to be almost ponents. Nevertheless, these were years of fierce

entirely lacking in his latest works. Here he has struggle for the unfortunate painter. Millet, with his

powerfully expressed the joy of living as it might be large family (he had four sons and five daughters),

known to a soul like his — serious and robust, and al- knew what it was to want tor bread, for firewood, for

ways veiled in melancholy. His palette is brighter the most indispensable necessities of life. The baker

and less embarrassed than it afterwards became; cut off his credit, the tailor sent him summonses,

indeed, the colour is sometimes even a little florid, as The poor artist lived in agonies of hunger, tormented

in the graceful portrait of Mile Feuardent. On the by bailiffs, by distraint warrants, and by humiliation,

other hand, tJie severity of the modelling always saves It is impossible to read the story of his sufferings

his work from anything like carelessness or lack of without shedding tears.

dignity. Some — like the charming pastel of " Daph- And yet it wa.s just then that Millet, disgraced and nis and Chloe" in the Boston Mu.seum — are frankly baffled, shut out of the Salon, unable to sell his pic- reminiscent of Puvis de Chavannes. But the beauty tures, was at the height of his genius. From these of these pastorals had not been very well appreciated, ten or twelve years date the following immortal works: To make a living, Millet was obliged to undertake base "The Sower" and "Haymakers" (18.50); " Harvest- and ill-paid work, paintmg signs tor mountebanks ers", "Sheep-shearers" (185.3); "Peasant grafting


and midwives. His " CEdipas taken down from the tree ' , a study of the nude which excels as a piece of virtuosit's and an impression of sa\agt wildness, rather shocked and astonished the public than won admiration.

His dilticulties increased more and more: having lost his first wife, he married again in 1.845, and with children came want. Matters were precipitated by the Revolu- tion of 1848. At first the Republican Government took an interest in the artist, and he received some help from it; but the events of the month of June and the dis- orders of the following year frightened Millet and inspired him with an unconquerable dislike of Paris. He was be- ginning at last to understand his own nature; he turned his back forever on the friv- olous, worldly public. With- out disowning his earlier works, he addressed himself to another, newer and more human, method of interpret-


jrOIS -MlLLKT

By himself


a tree" (185.5); "Gleaners" (1857); "The Angelus" (1859). To be sure, these admirable achievements did not always meet with dispar- agement: Victor Hugo had written in one of his famous poems: " Le geste auguste du semeur" (The sower's noble attitude). The leading crit- ics, Theophile Gautier and I'aul de Saint-Victor, agreed in recognizing the epic power uf these peasant paintings. But the public still resisted: ii-jielled by the abrupt pre- .si'iitment, the rugged execu- tion, the fierce poesy, they insisted on seein" in these works pleas for democracy, ^iieialistic manife.stos, and appeals to the mob. In vain lid the painter protest: w liether he liked it or not, many made of him a revolu- tionary, a demagogue, a trib- une of the people. In the France of that day no one was able to understand what depth of religion was here — to recognize in this sombre and pessimistic art the only Chris-


ing the things of the earth and the life of the rustic, tian art of our time. The only peasants then known to

In the summer of 1S49 he went to Barbizon, a little painting were comic-opera peasants — the rude buf-

village about one league from Chailly, on the borders foons of Ostade and Teniers, or the beribboned

of the Forest of Fontainebleau. He only meant to ninnies of Watteau and Greuze. They were always

spend a few weeks there ; but remained for the rest of travestied in the interests of romance or of caricature,

his life — twenty-seven years. From that time Millet burlesque or preciosity. No one had ever ventured

was Millet, the painter of peasants. It is impossible to show them in the true character of their occupa-

to recount in detail all his life during the ten or fifteen tions — the rough beauty of the labour from which

years following his exodus into the country, until they derive their dignity.

his final triumph — to trace the long course of effort The whole of Millet's work is but a paraphrase or

and of heroic sacrifice, through which the name of a an illustration of the Divine Sentence: ' In the sweat

little obscure hamlet of the Ile-de-France by the tenac- of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread". "Every

ity of a small group of painters was made one of the man", he writes, "is doomed to bodily pain". And

most famous names in the art of all ages. again, "It is not always the joyous side that .shows

It was at Barbizon that Millet found Rousseau, who itself to me. The greatest happiness I know is calm


had been settled there for some fifteen years, and with whom he became united in a truly memorable friend- ship. Other painters — Aligny and Diaz — also fre-


and silence". But at the same time, this harsh law of labour, because it is God's law, is the condition of our nobility and our dignity. Millet is quite the


quented the village and the now historic auberge of opposite of a Utopian or an insurgent. To him the

P^re Gaune. The little band of pariahs lived in this chimeras of Socialism and the wholesale regulation of

wilderness like anchorites of nature and art. Nothing the good things of life are impious, childish, and dis-

could be more original than this modern ThebaVd, graceful. "I have no wish to suppress sorrow",

so curiously analogous to the Port-Royal colony of ho proudly exclaims: "it is sorrow that gives most

solitaries or the English Lake School. As a matter strength to an artist's utterance". In his subsequent

of fact. Englishmen and Americans — a William work, moreover, as if challenging the world, he accen-

Hunt or a Richard Heam, a Babcock or a Wheel- tuated still further the ruggedness of his painting and

Wright — had the honour of being the first to compre- the harshness of his sentiment. The year 1863 marks

hend this new art and to form an admiring circle of the lowest point of this depressed and misanthropic

neophytes and disciples about its misunderstood ex- mood. Nothing ever exceeded his "Winter" in