The severe beauty of Life: Jean-François Millet

The art of France in the 19th century strikes our imagination with the number of talented painters who lived at that time and the variety of art movements. It was the period when realism flourished, popularized by such talented artists as Jean-François Millet. Millet was born on this day in 1814.

Millet portrayed the gravity, hardship, and dignity of common agricultural laborers, but, despite being labeled a “Socialist revolutionary,” his viewpoint was less political than fatalistic. The artist’s humanity toward peasant life deeply impressed many painters, including Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh began doing studies after Millet works as early as 1880. These early studies helped Van Gogh to learn the disciplines necessary in order to paint. Van Gogh felt that no one could offer him a finer example: “Millet is father Millet . . . counsellor and mentor in everything for young artists,” Vincent wrote to Theo in 1885.

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