Jean François Millet

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Millet, Jean François


Born Oct. 4, 1814, in Gruchy, near Gréville, in Normandy; died Jan. 20, 1875, in Barbizon, near Paris. French painter and graphic artist.

Millet, the son of a peasant, studied painting in Paris under P. Delaroche in 1837 and 1838. In the late 1830’s and the 1840’s he painted portraits in an eclectic style, court scenes reminiscent of F. Boucher, and compositions on mythological subjects. Having become associated with such masters of the Barbizon school as N. V. Diaz, Millet began painting scenes from peasant life. With a profoundly sympathetic approach to the subject, Millet realistically depicted the difficult working conditions of the peas-ants and poetically expressed the indissoluble bond between man and nature (The Gleaners, 1857; The Angelas, 1859; The Peasant Leaning on His Hoe, 1863—all in the Louvre, Paris).

The peasants and landscapes depicted in Millet’s paintings are imbued with grandeur, austere simplicity, and a meditative sadness. The artist’s works of the 1850’s and 1860’s are marked by clear composition; forms are accentuated by means of various compositional devices (low horizon, large figures). These works are also characterized by subtle value relationships and somewhat heavy earthen colors. A number of them are undoubtedly expressions of social criticism, as was pointed out by the leading critics of Millet’s day. At the same time, these works often seem to justify a traditional way of life. From the mid-1850’s, Millet did many etchings and pastels.


Zamiatina, A. N. Millet. Moscow, 1959.
Moreau-Nelaton, E. J.-F. Millet raconté par lui-même, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1923.
Gay, P. J.-F. Millet. Paris, 1951.
Lepoittevin, L. Jean-Francois Milletportraitiste: Essai et catalogue. Paris [1971].