- Heather McPherson
(b Gruchy, nr Gréville, Oct 4, 1814; d Barbizon, Jan 20, 1875).
French painter, draughtsman and etcher. He is famous primarily as a painter of peasants. Although associated with the Barbizon school, he concentrated on figure painting rather than landscape except during his final years. His scenes of rural society, which nostalgically evoke a lost golden age, are classical in composition but are saturated with Realist detail (see Realism). Millet’s art, rooted in the Normandy of his childhood as well as in Barbizon, is also indebted to the Bible and past masters. His fluctuating critical fortunes reflect the shifting social and aesthetic lenses through which his epic representations of peasants have been viewed.
Born into a prosperous peasant family from Normandy, Millet received a solid general education and developed what became a lifelong interest in literature. After studying with a local portrait painter, Bon Du Mouchel (1807–46), he continued his professional training in Cherbourg with Lucien-Théophile Langlois (...