“[Millet] is a laborer who loves his field — plows, sows, and reaps it. His field is art. His inspiration is life, is nature — which he loved with all his strength.”
— Alfred Sensier, friend and biographer* of Jean-François Millet
Barbizon is only a half-hour drive south of base camp. However, I’d like to get a better idea about the artist who allegedly made the fresco sketch. Some research reveals the waypoints along the journey to Barbizon.
Jean-François Millet was a native of Gruchy, a hamlet of Gréville in Normandy. He lived and worked on the family farm to adulthood. The pastoral scenes of his youth would later serve as inspiration for his most famous paintings.
Encouraged by his father at age 20, Millet left home to study painting in neighboring Cherbourg. An art museum had just opened in that town. Millet often went there to copy the works of the master painters as part of his studies. Today, the Thomas Henry Museum holds the third largest collection of Millet paintings.
During three years at Cherbourg, Millet made such an impression on the community that they gave him a stipend to study in Paris. At L’école de Baux Arts (school of fine arts), Millet studied under Paul Delarouche. Later, he also had his own studio in the city. I’ll try to find it.
Barbizon, Le village des peintres
Whether it was the third French revolution of 1848, an outbreak of cholera in the city, the general urban atmosphere or a combination there of, in 1849 Millet took his family to a village of woodcutters on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. By the end of the century it would be known as “the village of painters.”
At his home studio in Barbizon, he painted The Angelus. A few doors down the main street is the inn where the meeting of would-be frescoists supposedly took place, the Auberge Siron (today called the Hôtel de Bas-Bréau).
Millet lived there for the last 26 years of his life. He is buried in the local cemetery of Chailly-en-Bière.
*Sensier, Alfred, Jean-François Millet, Peasant and Painter (translated by Helena de Kay). Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1881.