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  • Jean-Francois Millet
    Oct 4, 1814 - Jan 20, 1875
  • Shepherdess with Her Flock - Jean-François Millet was a French painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France. Millet is noted for his scenes of peasant farmers; he can be categorized as part of the naturalism and realism movements. As a painter of melancholy scenes of peasant labor, he has been considered a social realist. Millet's paintings are noted for their power and simplicity of drawing.
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Shepherdess with Her Flock
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  • Shepherdess with Her Flock

  • Jean-Francois Millet
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  • Bergère avec son troupeau

    c. 1863
    Oil on canvas
    32 x 39 3/4 in. (81 x 101 cm)
    Musée d'Orsay, France.

    Calm, serenity and harmony triumph in this painting. Wearing a woolen cape and a red hood, the young shepherdess (perhaps the painter's own daughter) is standing in front of her flock. She is knitting, looking down at her work. In a monotonous landscape stretching, unbroken, to the horizon, she is alone with her animals. The flock forms a patch of undulating light, reflecting the rays of the setting sun. The scene is an admirable mixture of accuracy and melancholy. Millet observed the minutest details, like the small flowers in the foreground. He makes use of the perfect harmony of blues, reds and golds.

    Since 1862, Millet had been thinking about a picture of a shepherdess guarding her sheep. He didn't tell anyone about it, but Alfred Sensier recounts that the theme "had taken hold of him".

    On completion, the work was presented at the 1864 Salon where it was warmly received. "An exquisite painting" for some, "a masterpiece" for others, this most peaceful of scenes captivated all those who preferred images of idyllic country scenes to those of peasant squalor. Bergère avec son troupeau was even awarded a medal, and the State, which until then had shown little interest, was eager to acquire it. However, the work had already been promised to the collector Paul Tesse. Like a number of other paintings by Millet, this one finally entered the national collections in 1909, thanks to a bequest by Alfred Chauchard, the director of the Grands Magasins du Louvre.

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Other paintings by Jean-Francois Millet:

The Reaper
The Reaper
The Potato Harvest
The Potato Harvest
Man with a Hoe
Man with a Hoe
Louise Antoinette Feuardent
Louise Antoinette Feuardent
Jean-Francois MilletJean-François Millet, who settled in Barbizon late in 1849, was born into a farming family. Trained with an academic painter in Paris, Millet devoted his early work to portraits and erotic nudes. He was sensitive to the changes brought about by the increasing urbanisation and industrialisation of France, and he was particularly inspired by the social issues raised by the Revolution of 1848. Thereafter he turned to scenes of peasants labouring, endowing them with heroic form adapted from the art of the past.

Unprecedented in French art, such works by Millet as The Sower were particularly controversial in the political climate of the time. Powerful and monumental, Millet's sower strides across a newly plowed field with energy and resolution, scattering the seeds for a new crop; he serves as an emblem of regeneration and of the elemental relationship between man and nature. Crude in appearance, the work provoked commentary not only on its subject matter but also on its styles and unorthodox technique. Théophile Gauteier, a famous nineteenth-century critic working for a government newspaper, noted that Millet "trowels on top of his dishcloth of a canvas, without oil or turpentine, vast masonries of coloured paint so dry that no varnish could quench its thirst". Political conservatives, who viewed the peasants as a potentially disruptive social element, attacked Millet, while liberals praised his ennoblement of rural life.

A nostalgia for an existence that was a dying phenomenon eventually made Millet's works some of the most famous images of their day. His paintings were exhibited widely, and he was revered on both sides of the Atlantic.

When Millet died in 1875, he was buried at Barbizon, next to Théodore Rousseau.