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Jean Francois Millet
MILLET, JEAN FRANCOIS (1814-1875), French painter, who came of a peasant family, was born on the 4th of October 1814 in the hamlet of Gruchy, near Greville (La Manche), in the wild and picturesque district called La Hague. His boyhood was passed working in his father's fields, but the sight of the engravings in an old illustrated Bible set him drawing, and thenceforth, whilst the others slept, the daily hour of rest was spent by Millet in trying to render the familiar scenes around him. From the village priest the lad learnt to read the Bible and Virgil in Latin, and acquired an interest in one or two other works of a high class which accompanied him through life; he did not, however, attract attention so much by his acquirements as by the stamp of his mind. The whole family seems, indeed, to have worn a character of austerity and dignity, and when Millet's father finally decided to test the vocation of his son as an artist, it was with a gravity and authority which recalls the patriarchal households of Calvinist France. Two drawings were prepared and placed before a painter at Cherbourg named Bon Du Mouchel, who at once recognized the boy's gifts, and accepted him as a pupil; but shortly after (1835) Millet's father died, and the eldest son, with heroic devotion, took his place at home, nor did he return to his work until the pressing calls from without were solemnly enforced by the wishes of his own family. He accordingly went back to Cherbourg, but after a short time spent there with another master (Lucien-Théophile Langlois) started with many misgivings for Paris. The council-general of the department had granted him a sum of 600 francs, and the town council promised an annual pension of 400, but in spite of friendly help and introductions Millet went through great difficulties. The system of the Ecole des Beaux Arts was hateful to him, and it was not until after much hesitation that he decided to enter an official studio, that of Delaroche. The master was certainly puzzled by his pupil; he saw his ability, and, when Millet in his poverty could not longer pay the monthly fees, arranged for his free admission to the studio, but he tried in vain to make him take the approved direction, and lessons ended with "Eh, bien, allez a votre guise, vous htes (?) si nouveau pour moi que je ne veux rien vous dire" ("Eh, well, go have your own way, you (?) so new to me that I have nothing to say to you"). At last, when the competition for the Grand Prix came on, Delaroche gave Millet to understand that he intended to secure the nomination of another, and thereupon Millet withdrew himself, and with his friend Marolle started in a little studio in the Rue de l'Est. He had renounced the beaten track, but he continued to study hard whilst he sought to procure bread by painting portraits at 10 or 15 francs apiece and producing small pastiches of Watteau and Boucher. In 1840 Millet went back to Greville, where he painted Sailors Mending a Sail and a few other picture reminiscences of Cherbourg life.
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