Thursday, March 31, 2011

!00 paintings an artist should know, X11(a)

55) The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet 1814-1875

Millet was a peasant from Normandy who studied with Paul Delaroche. The painting represents French peasants gleaning that is, following after the harvesters and picking up the spilled grains of wheat left behind.This is described in the Old Testament in the story of Ruth and Naomi. It is a reminder of the plight of the desperately poor rural peasantry. Millet first a portrait painter turned to the country side in which he had been raised and depicted the simplest humblest peasants with a reverence and religious dignity. This is austere and extremely serious art. In a way, it is almost the opposite of the Gerome's with their nearly frivolous but slightly self important subject matter and fascination with the trappings of wealth, rarity and antiquity. Below is The Sower painted in 1850.

Here is a representation of a peasant sowing grain by hand is the ancient way that is was done from prehistoric times. He is presented heroically against the sky in the failing light. Behind his sowing hand are birds, that will undoubtedly claim their share of the seed.

Although supported by a few patrons Millet's art was not particularly well received until he was old. His rough, simplified handling was perfectly suited to his subject matter and basic and brutal. Alongside the highly polished works of many of the salon painters with whom he was displayed, his art seemed at first to be too roughly made and his political sensibilities made patrons uneasy. But the paintings dignity and depictions of the eternal and most ancient simple means of life, which were to vanish in a generation have a evocative power, and "remember" well. They are Old Testament Biblical in their sternness and themes.

16 comments:

Deb said...

I grew up with a print of The Gleaners in our house. It always makes me feel settled and serene.

Philip Koch said...

Wonderful post! An impressive dignity and power in these figures. I think you've just persuaded me to give a Millet presentation to my Life Drawing Class this morning!

John D. Wooldridge said...

The Gleaners is definitely a favorite of mine. The work of Millet speaks to me on many levels and I really enjoy that rough handling.

Mark Heng said...

Definitely a classic...I'm just wondering about the "rough handling". I've seen a few Millets close up, and while they might be handled a *little* rougher than, say, a Gerome, they're definitely refined studio paintings.

...Keep 'em coming!

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! When I see these paintings I'm reminded of what you said earlier. "There's something in the general that speaks louder than the details."
I believe when art speaks on that level, everyone understands it.

Bill Nagel said...

Stape, I'm not sure if your a fan of his work but have you seen Banksy's take on "The Gleaners" http://superpunch.blogspot.com/2011/03/banksy-vs-jean-francois-millet.html

Deborah Paris said...

Great post! And I love that phrase- the paintings "remember well". So true.

Lefteris C said...

The Gleaners don't do much for me but The Sower is really wonderful in its simplicity. Van Gogh painted similar subjects some 30 years later, in his early period I think, with a similar rough treatment. It's interesting to find these kind of connections.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb;
It seems to have been more popular ion the 50's I think.
............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Phillip;
Millet would probably play well with art students, not too "fancy".
.....................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

John D.
I think it has something transcendent about t.
.................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mark;
Thank you.
..............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

bill:
These are certainly general.Not much frivolous detail.
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Bill;
That is a visit to a very different aesthetic than I frequent. I get a lot of concept art types through the blog, but I don't play video games or read fantasy stuff.
................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deborah;
I would like my paintings to remember well. Sigh.
.................Stape

Bernie's Art said...

Did you know that he was one of Van Gogh's favourite painters.