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Jean-François Millet

It is the treating of the commonplace with the feelings of the sublime that gives to art its true power.

Jean Francois Millet was born into a family of peasant farmers near Cherbourg. He trained locally as a painter and then went to Paris in 1837 to study under Delaroche. His early work comprised of conventional portraits and fashionable eighteenth century pastoral scenes. However, in 1848 he chose to exhibit The Winnower, a painting depicting peasant life, at the Paris Salon. It was the first of many rural scenes based on memories of his own childhood. Criticized for allowing socialist concerns to infiltrate his art, Millet stated that it was “the human side” of life that he wished to portray, In 1849 he moved to Barbizon where he remained for the rest of his life, painting laborers going about their daily business. In The Angelus, his best known work, Millet chose to celebrate a dignified, hard working couple at work in the fields – their heads bowed in an expression of devotion in the face of nature. Depicting his human figures with a classically sculptural simplicity, Millet’s concern was to show the pair in harmony with their peaceful and unchanging rural existence.

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