To modern people, especially urban area people, few understand the meaning of farming or living as farmers. However, it was also hard to imagine in the 19th century. While other painters at the time were interested in brilliant landscapes, images of God, and religious pictures, one painter turned his eye to the reality of daily life in farming villages. He painted peasants from a natural and honest view. His name is Jean Francois Millet. Since this year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth, there’s a special exhibition at Seoul Olympic Museum of Art.
An Introduction to the Master
Born in the rural area of Normandy, France, Millet started his life as a painter of portraits. Picture number 1 clearly illustrates Millet's self-portrait. He dreamt of spreading his wings further, so he moved to Paris with the dream of success. However, due to an unfortunate situation, he had to restart his life with a family in Barbizon, a small country village in France. In Barbizon, he took note of the environment, and he put his artistic heart into capturing the beauty of the environment. Following his paintings, we can really feel what captivated his heart.
The Forest of Fontainebleau
To escape the spread of cholera in Paris, Millet and his family settled down in Barbizon. The forest of Fontainebleau, the treasure of Barbizon, was Millet's muse. Fontainebleau is located to the south-southeast of the center of Paris and is well-known for its large and spacious forest. The numerous trees and landscapes painted by Millet show the quintessence of realism and naturalism. His drawing influenced many artists even after his death and became the origin of impressionism. Along with this, this exhibition will make you feel as though you are in the forest of Fontainebleau.
The Village of Barbizon
At the beginning of the 19th century, landscape became a rising inspiration and theme for artists. In search of more natural and beautiful landscapes, more and more artists looked towards Barbizon. They started the Barbizon School. Shepherdess Seated in the Shade was an experimental painting piece that Millet created by changing the angle of the painting according to the angle of the light. This new technique sparked the age of Impressionism. In the exhibition, you can view Millet's paintings as well as those of other painters from the Barbizon School.
Life of Rural Women
According to the exhibition docent, Millet's paintings improved the lives of the peasants and changed the village's image as well as depicting the 19th century landscape. Paintings in this section provide detailed information with specific explanations. Unlike then, paintings drew the interest of nobles and priests. Ordinary people became the main subjects in Millet’s paintings. At the exhibition, you will see four masterpieces by Millet from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – The Sower, Harvesters Resting, Potato Planters , and Young Shepherdess , which are numbered 8 , 7 , and 6 above.
The Legacy of Millet
In the final section of the exhibition, you can view Millet’s paintings of family and women of labor. This part of the exhibition provides an opportunity to learn how Millet lived his life, and how his view appears in his master pieces. Millet said, “I draw my word as I see it through my eyes.” Millet’s sprit and style are left as a precious legacy for post Millet artists and us. Trying to understand the world has become harder these days. If you would like to experience something different from everyday life, visit the exhibition. You may find beauty in everyday daily life, which is normally overlooked. The paintings of Millet and his colleagues await your arrival.
1 Monet, <Wood Gatherers at the Edge of the Forest>, c. 1863, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston.
2 Chintreuil, <Last Rays of Sun on a Field of Sainfoin>, c.1870, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston.
3 Millet, <Washerwomen>, c. 1855, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston
4 Millet, <Shepherdess Seated in the Shade>, 1872, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston
5 Millet, <Knitting Lesson>, c. 1854, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston
6 Millet, <Potato Planters>, c. 1861, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston
7 Millet, <Harvesters Resting (Ruth and Boaz)>, c. 1850-1853, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston
8 Millet, <Self-Portrait>, c. 1840-1841, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston
9 Millet, <The Sower>, 1850, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston
10 Millet, <Yong Shepherdess>, c. 1870-1873, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photograph © 2014 MFA, Boston