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Thomas Henry Museum

Twenty year-old Jean-François Millet went to study painting in Cherbourg, where some 70 years previously Thomas Henry was born.

Though educated in commerce, Henry had a taste for art. In his early career he went to Saint-Domingue, a lucrative French colony on the island of Hispaniola. He was a merchant there until a successful slave revolt, now known as the Haitian Revolution, put an end to the colony and created the Empire of Haiti in 1804.

The Conversion of Saint Augustin
The Conversion of Saint Augustin by Fra Angelico, ca. 1430; donated to the town of Cherbourg by Thomas Henry, 1835

Having proved himself in business, back in France Henry went to Paris and became a painting restorer, then an accomplished artist as well as a successful art dealer. From this time onward he collected paintings and sculptures from the major movements in Western European art of the previous four centuries. He became a celebrated connoisseur, his opinion of a work’s provenance and of its quality being highly regarded.

By 1831, he had lost both sons and sensed his own life’s end. He began donating—anonymously—portions of his collection to his native town.

La Justice
La Justice, original by Pierre Subleyras, ca. 1740 (left); copy by Jean-François Millet, 1837

After receiving a significant number of these artworks, the Cherbourg town council decided to open a museum. An investigation revealed the donor’s name, and the Musée Thomas Henry opened its doors in 1835. Among its first visitors was Jean-François Millet, who came to copy the works of the masters as part of his studies.

Petit génie de la peinture
Petit génie de la peinture (Little genius of painting), Jean-François Millet ca. 1842; part of the Ono donation, as was Millet’s Justice above

A later donation, that of Millet’s nephew Paul Ono in 1915, would add to the museum’s collection a large number of Millet’s early paintings. Among them were many of the student artist’s copies, which museum visitors can see beside the original.

Today, the Thomas Henry Museum holds the third largest Millet collection in the world.

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Preface to The Way to Vict’ry

The Way to Vict’ry on AmazonThe Way to Vict’ry is an ebook of three haiku inspired by Sun Tzu, Matthieu Ricard, and a magpie flight instructor.

 

Preface

In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the fifth-century BC Taoist author likens the successful battle plan to a watercourse: it follows the path of least resistance to its objective.

Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard devotes a chapter of his book Happiness (Atlantic Books, 2012) to the ego. He suggests the ego, imposed as a shield, becomes a target, which attracts suffering.

These works inspired the first two haiku in this book.

And the magpie flight instructor? It’s one of a mated pair that makes its nest in the bay tree behind the house. The springtime garden is a cacophony of young magpies on flight training day.

In haiku form, the lessons are easier to retain. These three have become personal mantras.

Stephen Wendell
November 9, 2016
Paris, France

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Young J. F. Millet, Road to Success

Maison où est né Millet
House where Millet was born.
(Pastel from the collection of Mr. Feuardent father.)
Sensier 3

That the young Millet grew up bigger than the other kids his age and strong and curious, that his father was a farmer like his grandfather, that he was the oldest son of eight children and so was obliged to become a farmer as well, that he enjoyed the work and didn’t regret this duty, that he learned Latin and read the Bible and the Confessions of Saint Augustin in that language, that he loved to draw and had a natural talent for it—all this has little bearing on the legend which would be born nearer the end of his life than its beginning. 

Gruchy
Apart from cars on paved roads and a rooftop antenna, modern day Gruchy appears much the same as in the early nineteenth century

However, within the summary of the painter’s youth are two separate lessons concerning success: How much counts the encouragement of our loved ones, and how narrow is the window of opportunity.

At eighteen, Jean-François talked with his father about his desire to become an artist. His father said:

“My poor François, I see thou art troubled by the idea. I should gladly have sent you to have the trade of painting taught you, which they say is so fine, but you are the oldest boy, and I could not spare you; now that your brothers are older, I do not wish to prevent you from learning that which you are so anxious to know.” (Sensier 40)

Millet’s birthplace
Inside the Millet home now a museum

So with his father’s encouragement, he went to Cherbourg to study painting. But only two months later the father was dying of a sudden illness. The son returned to Gruchy to sit at the deathbed.

Although the short time in Cherbourg had lit the passion within him, after his father’s death, Jean-François succumbed to his sense of family duty and stayed to run the farm. It was only by his grandmother’s insistence that he returned to his destiny:

“My François, you must accept the will of God; your father, my Jean-Louis, said you should be a painter; obey him, and go back to Cherbourg.” (Sensier 42)

How much counts the encouragement of loved ones toward our success! How narrow the window of opportunity!

 


This is the latest episode in A Pilgrimage to Barbizon. Follow this link to catch up on previous episodes (listed in chronological order). On Wednesday we’ll follow the fledgling painter to Cherbourg. 

Quoted dialog from Jean-François Millet, Peasant and Painter. Alfred Sensier, Helena de Kay translator. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1881.

Image “House where Millet was born” from Sensier’s original work, La vie et l’oeuvre de J.-F. Millet. Paris: A. Quantin, 1881.

 

The House by the Well at Gruchy
The House by the Well at Gruchy,
painting by Jean-François Millet, 1864

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Gruchy-Gréville, Normandy, 1814

France in 1814 was a tumultuous country. The French Revolution, begun 25 years before, ended in 1799, but the Napoléonic wars followed. A young artillery officer during the revolution, a certain Bonaparte rose to power and established the First French Empire in 1804. Napoléon I fought a series of wars with his European neighbors then, in 1812, invaded Russia.

 

French Empire 1811Map of the French Empire and Central Europe in 1811
From The Cambridge Modern History Atlas. Ward, Prothero, Leathes editors. Cambridge: University Press, 1912 (455-6).

 

Allying with Prussia and Austria, Russia responded in kind. The allies captured Paris in the spring of 1814. Forcing the emperor to abdicate, they sent Napoléon into exile on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy and near his home in Corsica. He would escape the island the following year and return to France to continue his aggression. Within a few months, Napoléon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. This time, he was exiled to Saint Helena, a small island in the middle of the South Atlantic. He didn’t escape again.

Meanwhile, in 1814, the Parisian “bistro” (Russian for “quickly”) was named by occupying soldiers pressed for time, immigrant American protestants established the American Church in Paris, and the long process of moving bones from the Holy Innocents Cemetery to the catacombs below Denfert-Rochereau was completed.

All this may have seemed far removed from Gruchy hamlet in the commune of Gréville on the Normandy coast, a week’s carriage ride north of Paris. Situated on the Cotentin Peninsula, which protrudes into the English Channel, Gruchy boasted not more than 25 thatched-roofed homes. These farmhouses lined either side of a single street, wide as a buggy. Fields beyond gave way to pastures and woodlands. Into this pastoral landscape was born Jean-François Millet, who would become known as the peasant painter.

Normandy Coast near GruchyOn the Normandy coast near Gruchy wind and rain are not uncommon in any season; late July 2016, this was the day’s best weather

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Roy’s Own Page

Terror wights don’t read. But Roy gets more fan mail than I do, so I read it to him. He really appreciates your kind words, and he adores the photographs and hand-drawn pictures.

Roy, Terror Wight Cover ModelI made a page for Roy, so his fans can keep up with his latest exploits. Roy’s page has links to all the articles featuring your favorite terror wight, plus this candid shot I got of him earlier today. You can leave a message for Roy in the comments section.

Roy, Terror Wight Cover Model

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Terror Wight Give-Away

Roy really wants you to have a copy of his ebook. Right now, he’s giving away the Kindle edition of Littlelot and the Real Monster.

Roy, terror wight and cover model   Take this book!


The terror wight still doesn’t grasp the concept of an electronic book.

“Give me a really big stack of books,” he said, “so I can give them away.”

I said, “I’ll give you an unlimited stack of books, Roy. Give away as many as you like.”

“Not big enough! I need a really big stack of books.”

To get your Kindle edition of Littlelot and the Real Monster from Roy’s “really big” stack, click this link to its Amazon page.

Get Littlelot and the Real Monster

The give-away ends Monday at midnight (Pacific time, GMT-8). That’s 9 a.m. in Paris, Roy’s bedtime. He hopes to go back to the figurine drawer empty handed.

Please don’t disappoint the terror wight!

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