Jean-François Millet

Born in 1814 in Gruchy, near Cherbourg, into a farming family of modest means, Jean-François Millet, who died in 1875 in Barbizon, retained throughout his life the taste for reading and the respect for knowledge instilled in him by his parents. A famous member of the Barbizon school, this “peasant painter” is one of the internationally best-known French artists of the nineteenth century. Although the “penniless provincial” regularly visited the Louvre and Sainte-Geneviève library, he had no liking for Parisian life. The pull of the countryside coincided with the revolution of 1848. The spirit of the age demanded Realist painters. In 1849 he fled the political upheavals and settled in Barbizon, his focus never straying from the connections between humankind and nature. Although Millet produced only a relatively modest graphic oeuvre, his work is of particular significance owing to its contribution to the industrialisation of the image. His etchings, which he conceived in part to earn himself a name with the public, along with print reproductions of his paintings, captivated Van Gogh and enjoyed huge popularity. The print publishing firm Goupil, for which the Van Gogh brothers both worked, contributed to their international distribution. Several reproductions from the Goupil Collections are brought together in the exhibition, alongside original Millet prints and cheap prints purchased from online retailers.