The Drawings of Jean-François Millet
This catalogue accompanies an exhibition on view from January 21 to March 4, 2022 at Jill Newhouse Gallery 4 East 81st Street New York, NY 10028 Tel (212) 249-9216 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Drawings of Jean-François Millet
Essay by Cora Michael
Jill Newhouse Gallery 4 East 81st Street New York, NY 10028 Tel +212 249 9216 www.jillnewhouse.com
Galerie de Bayser 69 rue Sainte Anne 75002 Paris Tel +33 1 47 03 49 87 www.debayser.com
“If I could only make others feel as I do all the terrors and splendors of the night; if I could but make them hear the songs, the silences and murmurings of the air: one must feel the presence of the infinite . . . ”
Undated letter from Millet to Alfred Sensier, cited in Julia Cartwright, Jean-François Millet : His Life and Letters , September 1896
Millet – A Summary of His Life and Work Cora Michael
Among the great Realist artists of the nineteenth century, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) was the peasant painter par excellence . His obituary summed up his life’s achievements as well as his nature thus: “. . . he was the son of a peasant, lived the greater part of his life amongst the peasant class, and was accustomed to dress usually as if his only occupation was to tend the sheepfold and help in the garnering of the harvest.” 1 Millet himself put it more succinctly: “Peasant I was born and peasant I will die.” 2 Indeed, no one is more closely connected to the theme of rural workers than Millet, whose upbringing endowed him with a deeper and more intimate understanding of this class of people than any artist of his day. His representations of sturdy peasants and their humble labors— gleaners, goose girls, sheep shearers and shepherds, among others—had an enormous influence on many of the vanguard artists that followed, including Camille Pissarro, Vincent Van Gogh, and Salvador Dalí. Unlike the Salon painters Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884) and Jules Breton (1827–1906), Millet never indulged in sentimental or sexualized depictions of his peasant subjects. At the same time, he did not shy away from the brutal and often degrading realities of their lives, as seen most famously in the hunched female figures of The Gleaners and the mute, exhausted male farmer in Man with a Hoe . This may be partly explained by Millet’s background but also by his admiration for the monumental figures of Michelangelo and the folk simplicity of the Le Nain 3 — taken together and filtered through his own artistic personality— resulting in a timeless and exalted representation of his subjects. While peasant themes formed the core of Millet’s oeuvre, his art was in fact quite diverse and eclectic in both subject matter and media, comprising portraits, nudes, and landscapes in paintings, drawings, and prints.
Millet was born in 1814 in Gruchy, a rural hamlet near Cherbourg on the Normandy coast. His family were landowning peasants who fostered a love of reading and learning in their young son. Millet studied with the local curate and read deeply on his own, especially Virgil and Homer (in Latin), the Bible, Shakespeare, and contemporary authors like Victor Hugo. In 1833 Millet began his artistic training in Cherbourg with the portrait painter Bon Dumouchel (1807–1846), a former pupil of David who encouraged his student to make copies of Old Masters in the local museum. In 1837, with funds provided by a municipal scholarship, Millet moved to Paris where he spent two years studying at the École des Beaux-Arts with the history painter Paul Delaroche (1797–1856), who described Millet as “dangerous” owing to his refusal to submit to Academic conventions. After a brief period back in Normandy, Millet returned to Paris in 1845 and earned a modest living as a painter of portraits and nudes. Some of these early drawings, such as Nu de dos courbé vers la gauche (cat. no. 1) offer a glimpse of his developing Realist approach to the figure: solidly modeled and without mythological scaffolding, the artist makes no effort to sanitize or perfect the forms of the female body but instead treats them with sensitivity and forthrightness. Millet turned to peasant subjects with conviction in the late 1840s, remarking to his friend and patron, Alfred Sensier, that these works “suit my temperament best; for I must confess, even if you think me a socialist, that the human side of art is what touches me most.” 4 Beginning in 1850 Millet exhibited a series of major canvases at the Salon, beginning with The Sower and followed by Harvesters Resting in 1853, The Gleaners in 1857, Sheepshearing in 1861, and Man with a Hoe in 1863. Critical response to his work was deeply polarized. Some praised the honesty of his portrayals of rural laborers while others decried the perceived radicalism thereof, not to mention the rough-hewn quality of his paint. The writer Théophile Gauthier likened this quality of impasto to “the earth itself,” which Millet took as a 6
complement. 5 It is vital to consider the larger sociopolitical context of Millet’s work: the mid-nineteenth century was a moment of transition and crisis in France as large numbers of peasants were migrating to cities and towns in search of a better life. This destabilizing trend, along with fresh memories of the Revolution of 1848, which overthrew the July Monarchy and established the Second Republic, meant that Millet’s images carried a political undercurrent that rankled conservatives. Despite Millet’s protestations to the contrary, it is difficult not to read his images of peasants as an implicit critique of the inequities that left so many with so little. 6 In 1849, during an epidemic of cholera in Paris, Millet moved to Barbizon with his second wife Catherine and their children. (His first wife, Pauline-Virginie, died of consumption in 1844.) It was here that Millet made a series of works depicting the daily tasks of local peasants, whom he often employed as models. Taken together, these works offer a kind of encyclopedia or almanac of farm chores, many of which were divided neatly along gender lines. For instance, women are shown churning butter, carding wool, or knitting, while men chop wood, till the soil, or cart hay. Sheep shearing was the exception, as subduing the woolly and wiggly beasts clearly required teamwork. This was not due to any prejudices about men’s vs. women’s places in society, but rather reflected quite accurately the division of labor in rural French life during the mid-nineteenth century. Drawing continued to be a core component of Millet’s artistic practice as it had been since the beginning of his career. Millet’s drawing style was diverse as well as inventive, consisting of rapid preparatory sketches; atmospheric conté crayon drawings (his preferred medium by far); lively pen-and-ink studies; and rare russet sanguines. He also produced numerous presentation drawings in pastel, which he applied in layered, delicate touches of color. Many of these were made to satisfy his collectors and reprised his most popular works, such as The Sower .
During the 1860s Millet’s work shifted dramatically as he focused on landscapes, many made during extended periods in Vichy where his ailing wife took the waters. In a reversal from his earlier peasant pictures, in which he placed figures close to the foreground plane and enlarged their forms relative to the landscape setting, these works minimize the human presence or eliminate it altogether. In works such as Chemin montant aux environs de Vichy, Auvergne (cat. no. 16) pride of place is given to the land, which dominates the composition. The high horizon lines and expanses of untouched paper found in many of Millet’s late landscapes recall Japanese prints, which the artist collected with great enthusiasm at this time. At the very end of his life, following years of struggle and controversy, Millet finally attained both critical and commercial success: his works sold to collectors in Europe, England, and America through the formidable dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, and fetched solid prices at auction. In 1867 he showed a group of nine works at the Exposition Universelle, a summary presentation of his career that cemented his reputation. The following year he was awarded dual honors: in Belgium he was made an honorary member of the Société Libre des de Beaux-Arts , Brussels, and in France a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur . Millet died in 1875, one year after the First Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. As Pissarro later observed, Millet had been a key defender of the “march of modern ideas” in art and helped lead the way forward for this new generation of independent artists. 7
Endnotes 1 Art Journal , 1875, p. 108. 2 Alfred Sensier, La vie et l’oeuvre de J.-F. Millet , ed. Paul Mantz, Paris 1881, p. 194. 3 The three Le Nain brothers were active during the seventeenth century in France: Antoine (c. 1600–1648), Louis (c. 1603–1648), and Mathieu (c. 1607–1677). 4 Letter from Millet to Sensier, February 1, 1851, published in ibid., p. 130. 5 T. Gautier, “Salon de 1850–51,” La Presse , March 15, 1851. 6 This is nowhere more apparent than in The Gleaners (1857, Mus é e d’Orsay, Paris). Gleaning was a centuries-old practice performed by the poorest members of rural society, who were granted permission to gather leftover scraps of wheat after the harvest. In the mid-nineteenth century, however, landowners began charging a fee for this privilege, further burdening the destitute. Millet depicted these stoic women in a noble fashion, with their solid, curving forms bathed in golden light, thus inviting us to see them in a sympathetic, humanist light. Still, the work offended critics such as Paul de St. Victor, who was stubbornly unmoved by Millet’s portrayal: “His three Gleaners have gigantic pretensions, they pose as the Three Fates of Poverty . . . their ugliness and their grossness unrelieved. These paupers . . . have too much pride.” Paul de Saint Victor, “Salon de 1857,” quoted in Griselda Pol- lock, Millet , London, 1977, p. 17. 7 Pissarro letter to Lucien Pissarro, May 2, 1887, reprinted in John Rewald, ed., Camille Pissarro, Letters to His Son, Lucien , p. 105. Cora Michael, Ph.D is an independent art historian. She was a former curator of drawings and prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, and holds a B.A. in Art History from Vassar College, and a Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU.
Note about signature stamps: The stamp signature Lugt 1460 was placed on artworks that were in the studio of the artist at his death during the period January–May 1875 and the stamp was applied by his execu- tors. The stamp signature Lugt 3728 was created in 1894 at the death of Millet’s second wife Catherine Lemaire. Stamp Lugt 1816 was also applied at this time. Stamp 3731 was put on works by the grandson of the artist in the 1920’s.
“Millet and other mid-nineteenth-century French artists were working at a time of dramatic social change, when the world of tomorrow would never again bear the same relation to yesterday. . . . Millet, like others, could choose between recording a dissolving present and attempting to express a concept of the timeless; he chose to combine both themes as he commented on contemporary life. . . . Millet painstakingly reinvented academic technique: first in the realistic portrayal of farm and village workers in the changing, fragile countryside of central France; then in the last decade of his career, in an astonishing series of landscapes that balance line and color in ways never before seen in French art.” Alexandra Murphy. Jean-François Millet— Drawn into the Light . Yale University Press, 1999.
1. Study of a Nude Seen from Behind Nu de dos courbé vers la gauche
c. 1846-49 Graphite on paper 4 7 ⁄ 8 x 3 5 ⁄ 8 in. (12.4 x 9.5 cm) Stamped lower left: Lugt 3728
PROVENANCE Galerie Paul Prouté; Private collection.
In the years right after his 1846 arrival in Paris, Millet produced a group of approximately 75 works, 50 of which were drawings, that focused on the female nude. These sensual and erotically charged works most likely portray Millet’s second wife, the young Catherine Lemaire as the model. According to Alexandra Murphy, this drawing is a study for the painting Deux Baigneurs (Paris, Musée d’Orsay) which explores the pose of the figure standing in the water and being helped up the riverbank by her companion. This painting was dated by Robert Herbert to 1848 in the 1975-76 Millet retrospective. For the final position of the figure, Millet straightened her upright a bit, nearly level - ing her shoulders horizontally. The unusual form under the figure’s left arm corresponds to the left knee of the riverbank figure, while the suggestion of a drapery line across the drawing nude’s buttocks is actually an approximation of the heavy shadow that shapes the painting figure’s bottom.
Deux baigneurs , 1848, oil on wood; Musée d’Orsay (RF141)
2. Study for Young Woman Asleep, Seen from the Back Étude pour une femme endormie, vue de dos
1846-1847 Graphite on paper 3 13 ⁄ 16 x 5 1 ⁄ 8 in. (9.7 x 13 cm) Stamped lower left: Lugt 3728
Two variants of our drawing are illustrated in “A Group of Millet Drawings of the Female Nude” by Bruce Laughton, Master Drawings Journal, Spring 1979, vol. 17, no. 1. All three are connected to an oil painting Woman Asleep which was recently sold at Doyle’s Auction in New York.
Young Woman Asleep, Seen from the Back , 1846–47, oil on panel; Art market, 2021
Eugène Delacroix, Female Nude (D. 21 II), 1833, Etching; Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale
Rembrandt van Rijn, Reclining Female Nude , 1658, Etching, drypoint, and engraving on japan paper; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (29.107.28)
3. Portrait of Madame Scheffer Portrait de Madame Scheffer
c. 1848–50 Charcoal, black conte crayon heightened with white chalk on blue paper 22 3 ⁄ 8 x 17 5 ⁄ 8 in. (57 x 45 cm) Signed lower right
PROVENANCE By descent in the family of the sitter; Sale, Paris, Tajan, Hôtel Georges V, June 13, 1995.
Our drawing is an interesting companion to the Portrait of Madame Jean- François Millet in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and was probably executed at the same time.
Portrait of Madame Jean-François Millet (Catherine Lemaire) , c. 1848-49, black conté crayon, heightened with white, on blue-gray laid paper; Museum of Fine Arts Boston (21.283)
4. Portrait of Felix-Auguste Postel, Ship’s Outfitter from Le Havre Portrait de Felix-Auguste Postel, Armateur au Havre
1845 Pastel on paper
15½ x 12¾ in. (39.5 x 31.5 cm) Signed lower left in red: F. MIllet
PROVENANCE The Postel Family; By descent in the family.
EXHIBITION Douvres, Baronnie de Douves. Réalistes et Impressionnistes normands . Caen, 1961. hors cat.. LITERATURE Lucien Lepoittevin. Jean-François Millet Portraitiste . Paris 1971, no. 88, illustrated; Les Normands et la mer : [actes du] XXVe congrès des Sociétés historiques et archéologiques de Normandie, Communauté urbaine de Cherbourg, 4–7 octobre 1990 / organisé par la Société nationale académique de Cherbourg et le Service historique de la Marine. illustrated p. 168, pl. II. Millet was sent to Cherbourg by his parents in 1833 and began studying paint- ing there. The sitter, Felix-Auguste Postel (1817–1895) had run a well- known several generations old family shipping business, originally based in Cher- bourg. By the late 1860s, Postel’s business had become one of the largest ship- ping companies in France and by necessity relocated to Le Havre, which had become one of the major ports of France.
5. Woman Drawing Water from a Well Femme étendant son linge
c. 1848–49 Black conte crayon on paper 11 1 ⁄ 4 x 8 1 ⁄ 2 in. (28.8 x 21.9 cm) Signed lower right
EXHIBITIONS Williamstown, Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute. Jean-Francois Millet: Drawn into the Light . June 20–September 6, 1999. with further dates at The Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, Pa. and Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. no. 8, p. 42, illustrated. Few finished drawings by Millet survived the chaos of the 1848 Revolution, and his subsequent move to the town of Barbizon the following year. Ours is one of the earliest known, according to Alexandra Murphy, to realistically depict a figure at work. The bold signature, not usually added by the artist until a work left the studio, indicates that Millet sold this drawing soon after it was executed. Our drawing is most closely related to a painting in the collection of the Princeton Museum of Art. A related drapery study now in the collection of the Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, re- peats the motif of the woman tying up her heavy skirt with the strings of her apron, something which we see portrayed in other works, such as the 1848 Le Repos des Faneurs in the collection of Musée d’Orsay.
ABOVE, LEFT: An Apron , black chalk on paper; Private collection ABOVE, CENTER: Le Repos des Faneurs 1848, oil on canvas; Musée d’Orsay ABOVE, RIGHT: Woman at the Well ; Princeton Museum of Fine Arts
6. The Basket Maker Le Vannier
c. 1845–50 Black conte crayon, charcoal, and wash on paper 6 5 ⁄ 16 x 6 5 ⁄ 16 in. (16 x 16 cm) Stamped lower left: Lugt 1816
Millet’s portrayals of the activities of daily life included sowers, winnowers, and potato farmers, all of which required baskets. This rare portrayal of a young man weaving a basket has additional meaning when one realizes the critical importance of baskets to so many facets of daily life in rural France at this time. While our drawing was most likely done in Millet’s last years in Normandy before he moved to Barbizon, we find the same subject was still on his mind in the 1860’s, as seen in the 1867 pastel in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Winter Evening , 1867, pastel and black conte crayon on paper; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (17.1520)
7. A Miller Loading a Sack of Flour on to his Horse Meunier chargeant un sac de blé sur son cheval
Black conte crayon and black chalk on paper 8 7 ⁄ 8 x 6 1 ⁄ 2 in. (22.5 x 16.5 cm) Signed lower right
PROVENANCE Collection Alfred Sensier; His sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, December 11-12, 1877, no. 220; The Rev. and Mrs Frederick Frotingham, Boston;
Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox Ltd, London; Private collection, North Carolina.
LITERATURE For related drawings, see Musée du Louvre, René Huyghe, and Gabriel Rouchès. Catalogue raisonné: école française de J.F. Millet à Ch. Muller . Paris: Editions des musées nationaux, Palais du Louvre, 1938, no.10719, page 24.
EXHIBITION London, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox Ltd. Nineteenth Century French Drawings . June 15–July 15, 1983, cat. no. 24.
Prior to the success of the painting Harvesters Resting at the 1853 Salon, Millet survived in large part on the sale of his drawings, many of which, like this one, were bought by his patron and biographer, Alfred Sensier. This work is preparatory for a pastel in a private collection which was exhibited in Millet, Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, 2017–2018
In correspondence with Alexandra Murphy, she sug- gests that the building depicted here, with the dis- tinctive wall and adjoining stairs, is the barn/grange of Millet’s family home in Gruchy, with the stairs made slightly larger. It is interesting to note that in the pastel, Millet used a Barbizon setting rather than Normandy. Although the figure of the winnower in the background doorway of our drawing reflects back to 1848, our drawing probably dates to 1850–54.
Au moulin , c. 1865, pastel on paper; Private collection
8. Study for Harvesters Resting, Ruth and Boaz Etude pour Moissonneuses au repos, Ruth et Boaz
c. 1853 Graphite on paper 1 7 ⁄ 8 x 4 inches (2.54 x 10.16 cm.) Stamp lower left
PROVENANCE Collection of Henri Rouart, Paris, sold Hotel Drouot, April 21-22, 1913, one of three drawings framed together as lot 268; Collection Eric G. Carlson, New York. Numerous studies are known for Millet’s first major successful painting, Harvesters Resting , now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Millet conceived this painting as a depiction of the biblical story of Ruth, a poor widow who supported herself by gathering grain left behind by the harvesters. When the artist exhibited this work at the Salon of 1853, however, he changed the title to underscore its contemporary significance. The setting is the fertile plain of Chailly, breadbasket for much of France. In the 1850s rural France was increasingly owned by absentee landlords more interested in personal gain than in the welfare of the people who worked their fields. The gleaner’s meager bundle contrasts poignantly with the stacks of grain behind her, and Millet’s Boaz is not the landowner of the biblical story, but a sharecropper hired to work a rich man’s land. In this, as in so many of his works, Millet urges respect for the hardship and dignity of humble lives.
Study of a Man and Woman Asleep on a Haystack (Study for La Méridienne, or Noonday Rest) , black chalk on paper; Collection Paris, Musée d’Orsay
9. Studies of a Shepherd Leaning on a Stick, and other Figures Feuille d’etudes d’un berger appuyé sur un baton, et des autres figures
c. 1845-50 Pen and brown ink on paper 7 3 ⁄ 4 x 4 7 ⁄ 8 in. (20 x 12.5 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 3728
10. The Departure for Work Le Depart
c. 1857–59 Black conte on paper
5 13 ⁄ 16 x 8 7 ⁄ 16 in. (14.8 x 21.4 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 1460
Merging secular and spiritual themes in a way that culminated with the masterful drawing Flight into Egypt in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, our drawing is one of a group of early studies of this subject that portrays a family of peasant farmers travelling, but suggests the biblical story of the flight of Joseph, Mary and the Christ child. Other examples in this series are in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh and a pastel in the Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh.
The Flight Into Egypt , c. 1864, black and brown conte crayon, with pen and ink, over wash on paper; Art Institute of Chicago, 1996-608
11. Study for the Departure for Work Etude pour le Départ au Travail
c. 1858 Black conte crayon on paper 9 x 14 1 ⁄ 8 inches (23 x 36 cm) Stamp lower right : Lugt 1460
TOP: Departure for Work , c. 1857-59, pastel on paper; The Frick Pittsburgh (1984.4) ABOVE: Departure for Work , c. 1857-59, black conte crayon on paper. Reproduced in Murphy, Drawn into The Light , no. 47 as Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh
12. The Temptation of Christ Christ Tenté par le diable
c. 1860 Blue crayon on paper
12 x 7 13 ⁄ 16 in. (30.5 x 19.75 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 1460
This work is possibly connected to a project for an illustrated Bible that Millet had discussed with fellow artist Diaz de la Peña.
PROVENANCE Sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, Vente Veuve Millet (the artist’s widow), April 24–25, 1894, lot 171; sold to Meyer; Paris art market, offered to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1983. Although stamped with the artist’s studio cachet posthumously applied in 1875, this drawing was not sold by the family until the Estate Sale of Madame Veuve Millet, Paris, Hotel Drouot, April 24-25, 1894, lot no. 171, “La Tentation du Christ”. This drawing and approximately a half dozen other compositional sketches of moments in the Life of Christ were drawn by Millet in the early 1860’s, probably in 1863, as part of a project to publish a series of Biblical images as prints or photographs, to which Millet hoped other artists in his circle might contribute. Beyond the uncommon and straightforward Biblical subject, the drawing is also notable for the very stylized figure types of Christ and the Devil, reminiscent of a figure style Millet had explored nearly 20 years earlier.
13. The Departure for the Fields Le Depart pour Les Champs
1863 Black chalk with touches of white chalk on paper 17¼ x 11¾ in. (44 x 30 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 1460b and verso: Lugt 1816a
PROVENANCE The artist’s posthumous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, May 10-11, 1875, lot 179 (or 206); Possibly Charles Tillot, friend of the artist; Collection Marmontel, his sale, Drouot, March 28-29, 1898, no. 157, under the title Le Depart pour les Champs ; Collection Alfred Beurdeley, his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, November 30-December 1-2, 1920, lot 323; Collection Teddy Naggar, Paris; sold to a Japanese collector through Hiroko Saeki, New York City, 1984; Private collection, Japan. LITERATURE Louis Soullie. “J.F. Millet” in Les Grands Peintres aux Ventes Publiques . 1900, Paris, p. 167-168 referred to under “Ouvres en rapport.” Société de Reproduction des Dessins de Maitres (from the Beurdeley Collec- tion), Paris, 1912, Vol. 4 ; Robert L. Herbert, Michel Laclotte, and Roseline Bacou. Jean-François Millet : Hayward Gallery, 22 January-7 March 1976. London: Arts Council of Great Brit- ain, 1976, under no. 93, p. 152; Murphy, Alexandra R. Jean-François Millet : Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Exhi- bition Catalogue. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1984, under number 106, pp. 152-154. EXHIBITIONS Paris, L’Exposition Universelle de 1900, Exposition Centennale de Art Francais , April 14 - November 12, 1900, no. 1193; St. Petersburg, Russia, L’Exposition Universelle de 1900, Exposition Centennale de l’Art Francais à Saint-Petersbourg under the title: Le Depart pour le Travail , 1912, no. 427;
LEFT: Masaccio, The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden , 1425; Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence. ABOVE: Le départ pour le travail , 1863, etching in brown ink; Metropolitan Museum of Art, 24.30.28
Geneva, Switzerland, Musée d’art et d’histoire de la Ville de Genève, Exposition de l’Art Francais à Genève , May 15-June 16, 1918, no. 289.
Millet created this drawing in November of 1863, as he was beginning work on a a large etching based broadly on a painting of the same subject painted in 1851-53. Our drawing is one of two full-size, quite complete preparatory drawings which lay out the full composition for the etching, concentrating in particular on the figures. Six additional drawings, more loosely drawn or focused on details or a single figure are known for the etching project. The subject of Le Départ pour le travail is a young peasant couple setting off at the beginning of the day to harvest potatoes, the staple of their diet. In the deep distance, buildings suggest the village from which they set out, while behind the young man, another peasant, seated on one horse and leading a second, moves toward a large plow left abandoned in the field the day before and visible just to the side of the young woman. Millet had painted two variant images of the subject early in the 1850s, com- parable in the pairing of the walking couple, but with a different, less detailed background. Scholars have often remarked on the symbolic similarities be- tween Millet’s young couple and several Renaissance images of Adam and Eve, walking side by side, as they were forced out of Paradise, condemned to labor for their daily bread; and it seems quite likely that Millet had those works in mind when he composed his pair, for he often spoke of the harshness of daily life in Biblical terms, and others of his French peasant farm worker scenes have their roots in Biblical stories or religious aphorisms. But the precision of his peasants’ tools, the quirkiness of the young woman’s decision to wear her empty potato basket as a sort of sun-bonnet, and the specifically Barbizon-like details of the distant walled-village also demonstrate how firmly grounded in real-world experience and observation were Millet’s modern revisions of age- old tales.
“I have become acquainted with some of the environs of Vichy and have found several very pretty subjects. I make as many sketches as I can, and hope they will supply me with drawings of a different kind . . . Do not expect to see many finished drawings on my return, I want to provide myself with as large a store of documents as possible, and I have to look about me, since I do not know the country well.”
Millet letter to his patron Emile Gavet, June 17, 1866
Millet and his wife spent one month each summer of 1866-1868 in the town of Vichy where the mineral spas were thought to be helpful to Catherine’s health. During these trips, Millet’s subject matter dramatically turned to the depiction of the uninhabited landscape. These works sometimes included structures, such as houses or mills, instead of the figures of farmers and peasants that were previously the composition’s focus. Millet described these drawings as studies, or sketches; he produced them quickly and often in notebooks, working outdoors and reworking them later in the studio either with brown ink or watercolor. Many became preparatory studies for finished paintings.
14. The Water Mill, near Vichy Le moulin à eau, environs de Vichy c. 1866–68 Pen and brown ink with pencil on paper 6 3 ⁄ 8 x 9 in. (16.5 x 23 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 1460
PROVENANCE The artist’s posthumous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, May 10–11, 1875, lot 239, “Coin de Moulin”;
Collection Henri Fantin-Latour; Collection Ferdinand Tempelaere;
Collection Hector Brame; Collection César de Hauke; Private collection.
EXHIBITION Paris, Hector Brame. Jean-François Millet dessinateur, Exposition de quelques œuvres. January 31–February 19, 1938, no. 18.
15. Cottage in Vichy Maison à Vichy
c. 1866–68 Pen and ink on paper with pencil 6 1 ⁄ 8 x 7 15 ⁄ 16 in. (15.6 x 20.2 cm) Stamped lower left: Lugt 1460 Stamped lower right: Lugt 153c
PROVENANCE Collection Alfred Normand, Paris, his stamp lower right.
LITERATURE Lévêque, Jean-Jacques, L’Universe de Millet . Paris: Henri Scrépel, 1975, il- lustrated p. 33 EXHIBITIONS Paris, Galerie Claude Aubry. D’Ingres a Theodore Rousseau: aspects de la peinture française au XIXe siecle . May 5–June 20, 1959. no. 33, Illustrated on cover.
Claude Aubry, Cover illustration of his 1959 gallery exhibition.
16. The Winding Road near Vichy, Auvergne Chemin montant aux environs de Vichy, Auvergne
c. 1866–68 Pen and ink on paper 5 1 ⁄ 8 x 8 1 ⁄ 4 in. (13.1 x 21 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 1816
17. Study of Trees Etude d’arbres
Pen and ink over pencil on paper 4 3 ⁄ 8 x 6 1 ⁄ 2 in. (11.1 x 15.6 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 1460
EXHIBITIONS Clermont-Ferrand, Musee D’art Roger Quilliot. Jean-François Millet: Voyages en Auvergne et Bourbonnais, 1866-1868. July 12–September 29, 2002. no. 13, p. 38.
18. The Village Seen through Trees Le Village dans les Arbres
1866–68 Pen and watercolor on paper 5 x 6 1 ⁄ 2 in. (12.6 x 16.6 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 3728
EXHIBITION Clermont-Ferrand, Musee D’art Roger Quilliot. Jean-François Millet: Voyages en Auvergne et Bourbonnais, 1866-1868. July 12–September 29, 2002. cat. no. 79, p. 108.
19. The Path Lined with Trees, Vichy Sentier bordé d’arbres
c. 1866–67 Watercolor and pen and black ink on paper laid down on card 4 7 ⁄ 16 x 6 5 ⁄ 8 in. (11.3 x 16.8 cm) Stamped lower right: Lugt 3731
PROVENANCE Sale, Christie’s, Paris, March 26, 2014, lot 134; Private collection, acquired from the above; Sale, Christie’s, New York, November 16, 2021.
It is a great pleasure to collaborate again with Galerie de Bayser. My sincere thanks to Alexandra Murphy whose deep understanding and knowledge of the work of Millet has formed the cornerstone of scholarship on his work; to Simon Kelly whose exhibition Millet and Modern Art : From Van Gogh to Dali has reframed our perspective of Millet as an artist; to Cora Michael, an independent scholar whose over- view of Millet’s life and art is published here. In the gallery, thank you to Christa Savino who has organized it all; Bill Massey for photography; and Lawrence Sunden who has done the graphic design. –J. N.
Félix Feuardent, Portrait de Jean-François Millet et de sa famille , 1854, Daguerreotype
�. . . to me Millet, is that essential modern painter who opened the horizon to many.”
Vincent van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, Nuenen, February 3, 1884
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